Foley Hoag Helps Somalia Secure Victory in the ICJ

February 07, 2017

The International Court of Justice (“ICJ” or “Court”) delivered its Judgment on jurisdiction in the case concerning Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia v. Kenya) on February 2, 2017 and found that it does have jurisdiction to hear the case brought by Somalia. The case will now proceed to the merits.

Foley Hoag LLP partners Paul Reichler and Lawrence Martin lead Somalia’s legal team.

“This is a great day for the Somali people,” Martin said. “They will now have a chance to have their case vindicated on the merits before the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.”

Somalia instituted proceedings against Kenya before the ICJ in August 2014, requesting the Court to definitively determine the complete course of the maritime boundary between Somalia and Kenya in the Indian Ocean. The dispute stems from Kenya’s claim to a maritime boundary following a parallel of latitude running due east from the coast in circumstances where a delimitation drawn in accordance with international law should run southeast.

In October 2015, Kenya lodged a preliminary objection to the Court’s jurisdiction, arguing that a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between the two countries constituted a binding agreement not to take their maritime boundary dispute to third party adjudication. After Somalia filed its written response to Kenya’s objection in February 2016, the Court heard oral arguments on the issue in September 2016.

In its Judgement on jurisdiction, which is final and without appeal, the ICJ decisively rejected Kenya’s objection by a vote of 13-3. The Court found that the 2009 MOU posed no obstacle to its jurisdiction because it did not, as Kenya argued, constitute a binding agreement not to bring the dispute to court.

“All credit goes to the President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, for making the tough decision to bring this case to the ICJ. There were doubters along the way but the President’s wisdom has been fully vindicated,” Martin said.

In addition to Foley Hoag LLP, Somalia is represented by Professor Philippe Sands, QC of Matrix Chambers, London and Professor Emeritus Alain Pellet of the University of Paris Ouest, Nanterre-La Défense.