Jurisdictional Challenges and Institutional Novelties – Procedural Developments in Law of the Sea Dispute Settlement in 2020

In: The Law & Practice of International Courts and Tribunals
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  • 1 City University of Hong Kong, School of Law, Hong Kong SAR
  • 2 Director of the Centre of International Law, The National University of Singapore, Singapore

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In 2020, law of the sea tribunals rendered one decision on jurisdiction and decided one case on the merits. First, the arbitral tribunal in the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait dispute dismissed the jurisdictional objections raised by the Russian Federation and thus will proceed to hear the merits of Ukraine’s claims. Second, the arbitral tribunal in the Enrica Lexie Incident case found, after upholding its jurisdiction in relation to the dispute before it, that the Italian marines who had shot an Indian fisherman in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone were entitled to immunity under international law and that Italy had breached certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). These two arbitral awards have confirmed and developed certain trends in the jurisprudence of law of the sea tribunals. In addition, a novelty in 2020 was the conclusion of a Model Agreement between Singapore and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), for the latter to be able to discharge its judicial business in Singapore. Last, the Meeting of the States Parties to UNCLOS elected five new members of ITLOS and re-elected two.