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The ICJ and its Lip Service to the Non-Priority Status of the Equidistance Method of Delimitation

Fayokemi Olorundami

Keywords: Equidistance; Maritime Delimitation; International Court of Justice; Equitable Principle

Since the first maritime boundary delimitation dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the North Sea Continental Shelf Cases in 1969 to the most recent maritime delimitation judgment in Maritime Dispute (Peru v Chile), the Court has maintained that the equidistance method of delimitation is not the preferred method for delimiting international maritime boundaries. Yet a close examination of the Court's decisions shows that by insisting that the equidistance method does not have priority over other methods of delimitation, and yet continuing to apply it in the first instance to maritime delimitation cases before it, the Court has been paying lip service to its stance regarding the equidistance method. In reality, the former is the preferred method of delimitation, and States who submit their disputes to the Court may well expect that this is the method that would be applied by the Court in delimiting their boundaries. In order to prove this position, this article will consider closely how the equidistance method has been and is being applied by the ICJ. It thus traces the life cycle of the equidistance method, from its non-mandatory status at the beginning to its present pre-eminent status in light of the ICJ's maritime boundary delimitation decisions. It also assesses the rationale behind this development, and argues that the ICJ has by its application of the equidistance method elevated it to the method for international maritime boundary delimitation.

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