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Whaling in the Antarctic litigation

The International Court of Justice delivered its judgment in the case concerning Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan: New Zealand intervening) on Monday, 31 March 2014.

The judgment was delivered at a public sitting at the Peace Palace, The Hague, the seat of the court during which the President, Judge Tomka, read the court's judgment.

Australia argued that Japan was in breach of various provisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) with respect of its whaling program in the Southern Ocean known as JARPA II.

The primary question for the court was whether Japan could rely upon an exception under Article VIII of the ICRW which allows state parties to issue special permits for the killing, taking and treating of whales for the purposes of scientific research.

The court found that the grant of permits under JARPA II could not be justified as being for the purposes of scientific research under Article VIII. It followed that Japan had not conformed with various obligations under the ICRW prohibiting commercial whaling, namely the moratorium on commercial whaling, the factory ship moratorium and the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.

The court ordered Japan to revoke any extant authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to JARPA II, and refrain from granting any further permits under that program.

The court also stated in its judgment that it expects Japan to take account of its reasoning and conclusions when evaluating the possibility of granting any future permits under Article VIII of the ICRW.

The case was initiated by Australia in May 2010 and was primarily run by a small team of lawyers from the Office of International Law in the Attorney-General’s Department.

The team worked with international and local legal counsel; officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; officers from the Department of the Environment; and scientific experts from the Australian Antarctic Division in the Department of the Environment to prepare and present Australia’s written and oral arguments.

For more information regarding the proceedings, visit the International Court of Justice website.