International Court of Justice February 24, 1982


Ramirez, Princess L. Public International Law Semester, AY 2009-2010

Geographical Context

The Facts

 The Republic of Tunisia and the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya are both

situated on the northern coastline of the African Continent, fronting on the Mediterranean Sea.  While the Parties have not concluded any agreement delimiting any part of the continental shelf, this has not prevented a certain amount of exploration and exploitation. Each Party has granted concessions in respect of areas regarded by the Party concerned as appertaining to itself.  Tunisia had an existing concession line. In 1974, Libya granted a concession the boundary of which was a line drawn from Ras Ajdir at some 26° to the meridian, further west than the equidistance line, so the result was an overlapping of claims in an area some 50 miles from the coast.  Following protests in 1976 by each Government at the activities of the other, the Parties signed a Special Agreement in 1977 by which the matter was brought before the International Court of Justice.

The Dispute
 Libya and Tunisia requested the Court to:
A. Determine what principles and rules of international law

may be applied for the delimitation of the area of the continental shelf appertaining to each of them; B. Decide according to equitable principles, and the relevant circumstances which characterize the area, as well as the new accepted trends in the Third Conference on the Law of the Sea, and; C. Clarify the practical method for the application of these principles to enable the experts to delimit these areas without difficulties.

Submission of the Parties
LIBYA TUNISIA • A State is entitled ipso facto•The delimitation should be and ab initio to the continentaleffected in such a way, taking shelf which is the naturalinto account the physical and prolongation of its land territorynatural characteristics of the into and under the sea. area, as to leave to each party all those parts of the continental •Any delimitation should leave asshelf that constitute a natural much as possible to each Partyprolongation of its land territory all those parts of the continentalinto and under the sea, without shelf that constitute its naturalencroachment on the natural prolongation. prolongation of the land territory of the other. •The natural prolongation of the•The delimitation must not, at land territory of a State into andany point, encroach upon the under the sea establishes its ipsoarea within which Tunisia jure title to the appurtenantpossesses well-established continental shelf . historic rights

Submission of the Parties
LIBYA TUNISIA • For the purpose of achieving an •The delimitation must be equitable delimitation, the whole effected in conformity with of the sea-bed and subsoil equitable principles and taking beyond the low-water mark account of all the relevant along the coast of each Party is circumstances which to be taken into account. characterize the case. • Given the particular •The delimitation should lead to geographical configuration, the the drawing of a line which equidistance method would would not appreciably depart result in a delimitation of the from the lines which result from continental shelf which would be taking into account the inequitable, inappropriate, and geomorphological factors not in conformity with peculiar to the region, in international law. particular the existence of a crestline determined by the Zira and Zuwarah Ridges,

The Parties’ Delimitation Methods
Tunisian methods
Tunisia has 2 kinds of methods:  The first group consists in defining the natural prolongation of the two States on the basis of geological, geophysical and bathymetric data  The second group is geometrical, based on the configurations of the coasts of the two States, with a view to implementing the concepts of the coastal front and of proportionality

Libyan method
Construct a line of delimitation which is consistent with the northward direction of the natural prolongation.

The Court’s Ruling
A. APPLICABLE PRINCIPLES AND RULES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW The delimitation is to be effected in accordance with equitable principles considering all relevant circumstances. The area relevant for the delimitation constitutes a single continental shelf as the natural prolongation of the land territory of both Parties, therefore principle of natural prolongation cannot be used. In the particular geographical circumstances of the present case, the physical structure of the continental shelf areas is not such as to determine an equitable line of delimitation.

The Court’s Ruling
 The existing and potential delimitations with other states in the

area -- the rights of third States are reserved  The general configuration of the coasts of the Parties, and in particular the marked change in direction of the Tunisian coastline  The existence and position of the Kerkennah Islands  The land frontier between the Parties, and their conduct prior to 1974 in the grant of petroleum concessions, resulting in the employment of a line seawards from Ras Ajdir, which had in the past been observed as a de facto maritime limit  The element of a reasonable degree of proportionality

The Court’s Ruling
C. THE PRACTICAL METHOD FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE AFORESAID PRINCIPLES AND RULES The Court reviewed and rejected the lines proposed by the parties. It held that a delimitation based on equitable principles, taking into account the relevant circumstances, called for the boundary area to be treated as two sectors, and it indicated a line of delimitation in two segments.

The Court’s Ruling
The area is delimited by two lines:  Initial line – The Court took note of the de facto line employed by each Party dividing their petroleum concessions.  Second line – The change in direction of the coast was taken into account. The land territory of the two States is adjacent but because of the change in direction of Tunisia’s coast, it seems opposite at some point.

In determining the angulation of this line, the existence of Kerkennah Islands was considered. Causing the delimitation line to run parallel to the island coastline would amount to giving excessive weight to the islands and would result in the diminution of the Libyan continental shelf

Method Step 1: Determine the initial line

De facto line used by parties to divide their oil concessions

Step 2: Take note of the abrupt change in the coast’s direction
The Court identified the most westerly portion of the Tunisian coast

Step 3: The “Half-effect” Method
To determine the angle of the second line, the Court employed the “half-effect” method. This involved drawing two delimitation lines: one giving to the island the full-effect attributed to it by the delimitation method in use the other disregarding the island totally. The delimitation line actually adopted is drawn between the first two lines.
ne Li 1 (n o c ffe e t)

e Lin

eff ull f 2(



The Result

Legend: No effect / full effect Half-effect

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