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Cote d'Ivoire rejects imposing of equidistance line in final arguments today

Feb 16, 2017

Ghana’s neighbour Cote d'Ivoire is expected to today begin its final round of arguments at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany and is expected to pray the tribunal to grant its application on the grounds that it would suffer irreparable damage should Ghana be allowed to continue with exploration activities on the disputed boundary.

According to Cote d’Ivoire during its first round of arguments, the ITLOS, should accept its bisector method of maritime boundary delimitation to protect the interest of other countries in the sub-region.

According to Cote d’Ivoire, that would set a precedent for other countries in the region.

It argued that Ghana’s equidistance claim might prejudice the interest of other countries such as Togo and Benin in the Gulf of Guinea.

Cote d'Ivoire’s case

Presenting their case on the fourth day of hearing at the ITLOS, lawyers for Cote d’Ivoire were of the view that its bisector claim respects the rights and interests of neighbouring countries.

They argued that the states situated on the section of the Gulf of Guinea in the general east-north-easterly direction (between Cape Palmas in Liberia and the mouth of the Nun River in Nigeria) that is, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin, have not delimited their maritime boundaries by way of agreement.

They further held that Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana were the first of the countries to have conducted negotiations in the true sense in order to delimit their common maritime boundary and also to submit a case to an international tribunal, owing to the failure of these negotiations.

Prof. Michael Pitron, Prof. Alain Pellet, Mr Michel Pitron and Prof. Alina Miron took turns to present Cote d’Ivoire’s case to the Special Chamber at its sitting in Hamburg, Germany.

The first round of oral arguments took place from February 6 to 10, 2017, while the second one began February 13 and is expected to end today February 16, or tomorrow depending on how the Ivoirians will advance their case.

Case of Cote d’Ivoire

Cote d’Ivoire is praying the tribunal to resolve its maritime boundary dispute with Ghana once and for all.

 It is claiming Ghana has taken over parts of its maritime space.

According to Cote d’Ivoire, the maritime boundary dispute between the two countries was exceptional in all respects because the settlement would serve as a precedent for the sub-region, as well as enhance democracy in the region.

 It is the turn of Cote d’Ivoire to orally address the Special Chamber hearing the dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire after Ghana, led by the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, had finished with its first round of arguments on Tuesday, February 7, 2017.

Cote d’Ivoire ended its first round of oral submissions on February 10, 2017.

The second round of oral submissions will begin on Monday, February 13, 2017.

Sovereign Interest

Prof. Pellet told the tribunal that Ghana’s goal of achieving an equitable equidistance method was subjective and submitted that Cote d’Ivoire’s bisector claim was objective and appropriate.

For his part, Prof. Pitron accused Ghana of slamming the door on Cote d’Ivoire on the area of the interest of the sub-region.

He said Cote d’Ivoire was referring to the interest of other states in the sub-region and for that reason the tribunal should adopt Cote d’Ivoire’s bisector method of delimitation.

 The Ivorian lawyer held that the International Court of Justice and arbitral tribunals, being fully aware of the influence which their decisions might have on neighbouring states, take sub-regional interests into account when delimiting maritime boundaries.

Cote d’Ivoire’s Memorial

Cote d’Ivoire is arguing that within the context of delimitation of a maritime boundary, judicial bodies take the existence and respect of the rights and interests of neighbouring states into consideration when delimiting a maritime boundary between two states.

“Thus, the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, like that of arbitral tribunals, adopts a macro-geographical view of disputes and takes account of recognised rights, as well as potential rights of neighbouring states in the same area,” Cote d’Ivoire has argued in its memorial.

“In this particular case, the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana will not encroach upon the rights of third States since the Gulf of Guinea is open to the ocean.

“Hence, the Côte d’Ivoire-Ghana maritime boundary is not likely to prejudice directly Liberia, Togo or Benin or the other Gulf of Guinea States.

“Nevertheless, delimiting this boundary in the manner advocated by this Chamber would be liable to create a sub-regional precedent.

“In that respect, this precedent should not be such as to harm the interests of neighbouring states when they undertake the delimitation of their own maritime boundaries, by way of agreement or through a court,” Cote d’Ivoire has argued.

Ghana’s final argument

Ghana ended its second and final round of arguments at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany, accusing its neighbour Cote d’Ivoire for intentionally turning a blind eye to Ghana’s legal arguments.

According to the legal team from Ghana led by the Ms Gloria Akuffo - Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Cote d’Ivoire’s arguments lacked merit as they have no evidence to back its claims that Ghana had moved into Cote d’Ivoire’s maritime space.

Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo closing arguments

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Afua Akuffo, has officially ended Ghana’s oral arguments at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) with a call on the ITLOS to reject Cote d’Ivoire’s claims that Ghana has moved into its maritime boundary.

“And finally, we ask you to reject Cote d’Ivoire’s attempts to argue that an oil field built up and developed over decades should have been abandoned overnight in 2009 when Cote d’Ivoire decided that a different boundary would suit it better.

“The cynicism here is all that of Cote d’Ivoire, I am afraid to say, not of Ghana,” the Attorney-General noted.

She prayed the Special Chamber to apply well-established legal principles to a clear and consistent body of evidence.

“We submit that the law and the evidence point inexorably to the maritime boundary observed by both parties for half a century – the line, which we have termed the customary equidistance boundary. We say: You must uphold that line either as a result of the parties’ tacit agreement or by way of an adjustment to the provisional equidistance line to achieve an equitable solution,” Ms Akuffo prayed.

She said the duty of the Special Chamber was to bring finality to the dispute with what she termed as a “most valued neighbour and establish certainty of legal rights and entitlements of the parties’ fortune in the conduct of their affairs in the future.”

According to her, it would “be most unfortunate, should a contrary outcome, characterised by renewed and disruptive disputation between our two states and extending to third parties, be triggered by the decision of this Special Chamber.”

Ghana’s requests

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice is praying the Special Chamber to declare that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire mutually recognised, agreed and applied an equidistance-based maritime boundary in the territorial sea, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf within 200 Miles.

She is also praying the chamber to hold that the maritime boundary in the continental shelf beyond 200 Miles follows an extended equidistance boundary along the same azimuth (azimuth is a horizontal angle measured clockwise from any fixed reference plane or easily established base direction) as the boundary within 200 Miles to be the limit of the national jurisdiction.

Further to that, Ms Akuffo wants the Special Chamber to hold that Cote d’Ivoire was in accordance with international law, estopped from objecting to the agreed maritime boundary.

Another order being sought by Ghana is a declaration that, “The land boundary terminus and starting point for the agreed maritime boundary is at Boundary Pillar 55 (BP 55).”

She said the chamber should also hold that, “The customary boundary between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean starts at BP 55, connects to the customary equidistance boundary mutually agreed by the parties at the outer limit of the territorial sea, and then follows the agreed boundary to a distance of 200 M. Beyond 200 M, the boundary continues along the same azimuth to the limit of national jurisdiction.”

Ghana is also asking the Special Chamber to reject Cote d’Ivoire’s claim that Ghana violated the Special Chamber’s April 25, 2015 order, as well as claims that Ghana violated Article 83 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Cote d’Ivoire’s rights.


After 10 failed negotiation attempts, Ghana, in September 2014, announced that it had instituted arbitration proceedings at the ITLOS to ensure a resolution of its maritime boundary dispute with Cote d’Ivoire.

In accordance with Article 3(a) of Annex VII, Ghana appointed Judge Thomas Mensah, a former President of the ITLOS, as a member of the tribunal.

“Despite several years of good faith negotiations, including at least 10 rounds of bilateral meetings, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have been unable to agree upon the location of their maritime boundary,” then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, announced at a press conference in Accra on September 23, 2014.

Judge Boualem Bouguetaia, the President of the Special Chamber constituted to deal with the dispute, is presiding over the hearing.

Other members of the panel hearing the case are Judges Rüdiger Wolfrum, Germany, and Jin-Hyun Paik, the Republic of Korea.

Ad hoc judges Thomas Mensah, Ghana, and Ronny Abraham, France, were selected by Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire respectively per the rules of the ITLOS.


Source: Norvan Acquah - Hayford/