Timor-Leste v. Australia ICJ Hearing Begins

The International Court of Justice will open its hearings in the case Timor-Leste v. Australia today at 10am Central European Time (8pm EST).  The proceedings will be available live on the ICJ Multimedia Gallery and UNwebTV.

Background Information

1. Timor-Leste’s Claims (17 December 2013)

In the late afternoon of 17 December 2013, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste instituted proceedings against Australia with regard to the seizure and the subsequent detention, by “the agents of Australia of documents, data and other property which belongs to Timor-Leste and/or which Timor-Leste has the right to protect under international law”. In particular, Timor-Leste contends that, on 3 December 2013, officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, allegedly acting under a warrant issued by the Attorney-General of Australia, attended an office/residence of a legal adviser to Timor-Leste in Canberra and seized, inter alia, documents and data containing correspondence between the Government of Timor-Leste and its legal advisers, notably documents relating to a pending arbitration under the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty between Timor-Leste and Australia.

Timor–Leste further requests that, pending decision of the Court on its Request for the indication of provisional measures, the President of the Court exercise his power under Article 74, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court to call upon Australia: “(1) immediately to deliver to Timor-Leste and to the International Court of Justice a list of each and every document and file containing electronic data that it seized from 5 Brockman Street, Narrabundah, in the Australian Capital Territory, on 3 December 2013; (2) immediately to seal the documents and data [and any and all copies thereof]; (3) immediately to deliver the sealed documents and data [and any and all copies thereof] either to the Court or to 5 Brockman Street, Narrabundah, in the Australian Capital Territory; and (4) not to intercept or cause or request the interception of communications between Timor-Leste (including its Agent H. E. Joaquim da Fonseca) and its legal advisers in relation to this action (DLA Piper, Sir E. Lauterpacht, Q.C. and Vaughan Lowe, Q.C.).”

2. ICJ President’s urgent communication to Australia (18 December 2013)

Acting in accordance with the powers conferred upon him by Article 74, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court, Judge Peter Tomka, President of the ICJ, addressed on 18 December 2013 an urgent communication to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia in the proceedings instituted by the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste against Australia, and in particular on Timor-Leste’s request for the indication of provisional measures. In this letter the President of the Court wrote (inter alia) that “The convening of the Court for purposes of proceeding to a decision on a Request for the indication of provisional measures should be dealt with as a matter of urgency (Article 74, paragraph 2, of the Rules of Court). At the same time, the date for the hearings should be fixed so as to afford Parties an opportunity of being represented at it (Article 74, paragraph 3, of the Rules of Court). In the light of these considerations the hearings on the request made by the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste for the indication of provisional measures have now been fixed for 20-22 January 2014. The Court will at this juncture have to decide whether the conditions for the indication of provisional measures are met. As President of the International Court of Justice, acting in conformity with Article 74, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court, I hereby draw the attention of Your Government to the need to act in such a way as to enable any Order the Court will make on the request for provisional measures to have its appropriate effects, in particular to refrain from any act which might cause prejudice to the rights claimed by the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste in the present proceedings.” For more info on ICJ President’s Letter to Australia (sent on 18 December), click here.