International Court of Justice (ICJ) unanimously dismisses appeals filed by blockading countries against several decisions of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in favour of Qatar. ICAO has jurisdiction in the airspace row, rules ICJ
The UN’s highest court for disputes between countries sided with Qatar on July 14, 2020, in its legal fight with several Gulf states that imposed an air blockade against Doha.
The International Court of Justice’s 16-judge panel ruled that appeals filed by Qatar’s neighbours against several decisions of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) should be dismissed. The court also confirmed that it was the ICAO that has jurisdiction in the airspace row.
Qatar objected to the closing of the airspace in a complaint to the ICAO, and that case continues. Qatar has limited airspace and has had to rely on that of Iran.
The ICAO in 2018 ruled it had the jurisdiction to handle a dispute brought by Qatar, which accused its neighbours of violating a convention that regulates the free passage of its passenger planes through foreign airspace.
But the four allies disagreed, saying the ICAO was not the right body to judge in the dispute and that its decision to do so was “manifestly flawed and in violation of fundamental principles of due process and the right to be heard.”
They had asked the ICJ to declare the aviation body’s ruling “null and void and without effect.”
The president of the ICJ, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said The Hague-based court unanimously “rejects the appeal” by the rival states (blockading countries) against a decision by the world civil aviation body in favour of Qatar over sovereign airspace. The court also “holds that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has jurisdiction” in the case, by 15 judges to one, Yusuf said.
In a reaction to this, Qatar said it welcomed the decision “that it has the right to challenge airspace restrictions imposed by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt before the UN’s aviation body”. “We welcome today’s decision by the ICJ that will see the blockading states finally face justice for violating international aviation rules,” Qatar Minister of Transport and Communications, Jassim Saif Ahmed al-Sulaiti, said in a statement.
The UAE issued a statement vowing to fight on at the ICAO, saying it “will now put its legal case to ICAO supporting the right to close its airspace to Qatari aircraft”.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt severed political, trade, and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing Qatar of backing Islamist militants and Iran. Doha denies the charges and says the embargo aims to undermine its sovereignty.
The UN aviation agency, which is headquartered in Montreal, does not impose binding rules but wields clout through safety and security standards that are usually followed by its 193-member countries. There is also a dispute resolution mechanism under the 1944 Chicago Convention which is overseen by ICAO. Last year the ICJ — set up in 1946 to rule in disputes between UN member states – rejected a request by the UAE to take special measures against Qatar, after Doha won a case at the ICJ in 2018 over alleged discrimination against its citizens.
This article was edited using the data from the gulf-times.com, www.france24.com, www.dawn.com, www.barrons.com, and www.aljazeera.com