North Sea Continental Shelf case

North Sea Continental Shelf cases, ICJ Reps, 1969, p. 3 at 44

Principle: Ratification after signature is required to consequently make that party liable to obey the treaty.

Fact: On 1 December 1964, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands concluded an agreement for the partial delimitation of the boundary near the coast. On 9 June 1965, the Federal Republic of Germany and Denmark concluded a similar agreement. The three States failed to reach an agreement on the boundaries beyond the limits of the partial delimitations. Denmark and the Netherlands both contended that the boundaries should be determined in accordance with the principle of equidistance. The delimitation of the boundaries near the coast had been made on the basis of this principle, but the Federal Republic of Germany considered that the prolongation of these boundaries would result in an inequitable delimitation for the Federal Republic of Germany. On 31 March 1966, Denmark and the Netherlands concluded an agreement on the delimitation of the boundary between the other parts of what they regarded as their respective continental shelves on the basis of ―the principle of equidistancel.

This delimitation assumed that the areas claimed by the Netherlands and Denmark were conterminous and, in particular, that the agreed boundaries between the Federal Republic of Germany and Denmark, and the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands were necessarily delimited on the basis of the principle of equidistance. On 2 February 1967, the Federal Republic of Germany and Denmark, and the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands signed two special agreements for the submission of the disputes between them concerning the delimitation of their continental shelf boundaries in the North Sea to the International Court of Justice. The Special Agreements further stated that the respective Governments should delimit the continental shelf in the North Sea between their countries by Agreement in pursuance of the decision requested from the International Court of Justice.

Issue: Whether the Geneva Convention (Article 6 of the 1958 Continental Shelf Convention) is binding on a state which has not ratified it?

Decision: The Court found that the Geneva Convention is not binding on Germany, as it did not ratify it

Reasoning: Under the formal provisions of the Convention, it was in force for any individual State that had signed it within the time-limit provided, only if that State had also subsequently ratified it. Denmark and the Netherlands had both signed and ratified the Convention and were parties to it, but the Federal Republic, although one of the signatories of the Convention, had never ratified it, and was consequently not a party.

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Rayhanul Islam

Advocate Rayhanul Islam is the founder and Editor in Chief of Law Help BD. He is also a researcher. Critical thinking is his main focus. He is on a quest to bring positive change to the legal sector of Bangladesh. He promotes legal knowledge and human rights concept to the root level. e-mail: [email protected]

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