In the history of the International Court of justice (ICJ), the Qatar v. Bahrain Maritime Delimitation and Territorial case was the longest and most complex case. This case began on 8th July 1991. 29thMay to 29th June 2000 was the period which the public hearings of the court case was conducted. Delivery of the judgment was done on 16th March 2001 and it was based on the merit of the claims. In this case, filing of the application in the court was done by Qatar to institute proceedings against Bahrain and this was done in the year 1991(“Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain” 361). The dispute between Qatar and Bahrain was concerning sovereignty over some islands and shoals. They included the Hawar Islands, the shoals of Dibal and Qitat Jaradah. Territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation was the major disputes between the two states (Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain 361).
In this case, Qatar had some arguments in its 1991 application that the court had jurisdiction upon stated agreements between the two countries which happen to have been concluded in the year December 1987 and December 1990 (Kwiatkowska 2). Qatar also argued that the determination of court’s jurisdiction should be based on the formula which was suggested by Bahrain to Qatar. The formula was issued on 26th October 1988 and Qatar accepted it in the year December 1990 (Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain 1). This was called the Bahraini formula.
In the court judgment which was held on 1st July 1994, the court found the agreements which included; the exchanging of letters between Amir of Qatar and King of Saudi Arabia on 19th December and 21st December 1987; exchanging of letters between Amir of Bahrain and King of Saudi Arabia on 19th December and 26th December 1987; and the signed minutes by Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar on 25th December 1990 (Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain 362). Therefore the court decided to give both Bahrain and Qatar the opportunity of submitting all their disputes to the court and were given a time limit of 30th November, 1994 by which all parties were required to separately or jointly take actions (Kwiatkowska 4). Submission of the disputes was allowed by the court after the court noted that the Qatar’s application had connected some specific claims with the Bahraini Formula. Based on the documents filed by each party, by the judgment held on 15th February 1995; the court decided that it had the jurisdiction of hearing the disputes which were submitted. Though on 30th November 1994, the Qatar’s application was found to be admissible (Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain 362).
Challenging of the authenticity of eighty two documents appended to Qatar’s pleadings was done during written stage of the merits of Qatar Application. Thereafter, both were required to submit expert reports regarding this issue and the court also made various orders. The court’s last order was on 17th February 1999 and it recorded the decision of Qatar to disregard the eighty two documents which Bahrain had challenged its authenticity (Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain 362). In doing so, the concordant views of the parties was noted by the court on the way the disputed documents were treated and the court decided to extend time limits for the parties to file replies. The court made a decision that the replies was not allowed to rely on those documents. After the filling of the replies, filling of supplemental documents by both parties was also allowed by the court.
During the submission, Qatar decided to reject all of claims and submissions of Bahrain and it then requested the court to declare the following in accordance with the international law; sovereignty over Hawar Islands to be given to Qatar and the shoals of Dibal and Qitat Jaradah were to be under the sovereignty of Qatar; island of Janan was not to be under the sovereignty of Bahrain, Zubarah was not to be under the sovereignty of Bahrain and a single maritime to be drawn between Qatar and Bahrain on the basis that Hawar island , Janan island and Zubarah belonged to Qatar and not Bahrain. During its submission, Bahrain told the court to reject all the contrary claims made by Qatar and declare that; sovereignty of Zubarah to be given to Bahrain, Hawar islands including Janan to be under sovereignty of Bahrain and all the insulars and other features to be under the sovereignty of Bahrain (Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain 363).
On 16th March 20001, delivery of the judgment was done by the court on the merits of this case. From the judgment, it held that Hawar Islands and Qitat Jaradah islands was to be under the sovereignty of Bahrain and Janan Island ,Zubarah and Fasht ad Dibal were to be under the sovereignty of Qatar(Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain 364).
Thus it is important to note that Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain was a claim which aimed at settling disputes which involved rights to sovereignty over certain shoals, sovereignty over certain islands and maritime boundary delimitation which was filled by Qatar against Bahrain in the International Court of Justice. However, the jurisdiction of the court was disputed by Bahrain when Qatar filed a claim. In this case, an international agreement which helped in creation of rights and obligations can be established by the signatories from the minutes of the meetings and the letters that were exchange. Bahrain argued that the meeting was a form of negotiation and thus it could not serve as a basis of ICJ jurisdiction. However, both parties had an agreement that the letters initiated an international consensus with a binding force. Also from the minutes, there was stipulation of commitments from which the parties agreed thus creation of rights and obligations in the international law. This therefore formed the basis of the existence of international agreement.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that language played a every imperative role in influencing the decision of the court as to whether an agreement had been established. The main focus of the International Court of Justice was on the language and the minute’s contents had some persuasion when the International Court of Justice rejected the claim by the foreign minister of Bahrain that he had no intention of entering into agreement. Comparing this the general U.S law which states that where there is a claim by one of the parties that there was no existing contract because there was no meeting of mind might be the ground upon which a court in U.S would put some considerations as to whether there was an existence of contract and the same considerations was given on the claims of Bahrain’s foreign minister.
- Kwiatkowska, Barbara. “The Qatar v. Bahrain Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions Case.” Ocean Development & International Law 33.3-4 (2002): 1-43. Web.
- “MARITIME DELIMITATION AND TERRITORIAL QUESTIONS BETWEEN QATAR AND BAHRAIN.” Australian International Law Journal (2001): 361-64. Web.