Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire maritime dispute: ITLOS assists in selection of arbitrators

Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong — Attorney-General and Minister of Justice

Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire had to resort to the President of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), to select three arbitrators to settle their maritime boundary dispute in oil-rich fields after they reached a stalemate on the selection.
Both countries were by the rules of ITLOS, required to appoint an arbiter each and mutually select three more arbitrators to deliberate and decide on their maritime boundary dispute but they could not reach an agreement.
As a result of the deadlock, the President of ITLOS, who is also a sitting judge at the International Court of Justice, in December 2014 assisted the two countries to select three judges of the ITLOS  to determine the issues at stake.
The ITLOS is based in Hamburg, Germany.
“In December 2014, we went before the President of the ITLOS to appoint three more arbitrators. We spent the whole of December 3 and most of December 4, 2014 trying to come to some agreement, and finally we did,” the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, said in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday.
She explained that the selected personalities were not just arbiters but also judges of the ITLOS.

Arbitrators for the parties

Meanwhile, Ghana has appointed Mr Justice Thomas Mensah, a former President of the ITLOS, as a member of the tribunal, in accordance with Article 3(a) of Annex VII.
Cote d’Ivoire, for its part, has appointed Ronny Abraham from France as an arbiter.
Per the rules of the ITLOS, the two arbiters selected by the parties are expected to act impartially.
According to Mrs Appiah-Opong, the next item was for the parties to meet to set out a timetable and procedures to be followed before the commencement of hearing.
“We are going before the tribunal next week to set a procedural timetable to agree on issues regarding procedure and conduct of proceedings in the case. That meeting will take place in a day,” she said.

Special Chamber

She disclosed that the parties would meet in a special chamber at the ITLOS because “all the persons selected are also judges within the tribunal and court system”.
The matter is expected to last a maximum of three years.
She said Ghana had a solid legal and technical team, adding, “We are committed to conducting this case as professionally as possible to ensure that Ghana succeeds at the end of the day.”
Mrs Appiah-Opong will be leading the team.


After 10 failed negotiation attempts, Ghana, in September 2014, began arbitration proceedings at the ITLOS.
“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,” Mrs Appiah-Opong announced at a press conference in Accra on September 23, 2014.
Cote d’Ivoire staked a claim to parts of Ghana’s offshore a year after Ghana had discovered oil in commercial quantities.
Following failed bilateral talks between the two countries in the past year, Ghana decided to turn to the ITLOS under the rules set out by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect the country’s interest and that of oil companies which had invested millions of dollars in the exploration of oil at some of the disputed areas.

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