Leiden Journal of International Law

HAGUE INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNALS: International Court of Justice

Self-Determination Undetermined: The Case of East Timor

Iain G.M. Scobbie  and Catriona J. Drew  1

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On 22 February 1991, Portugal filed a case against Australia in the Registry of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) instituting proceedings in a dispute concerning “certain activities of Australia with regard to East Timor”. The impetus behind the case was the conclusion of the Timor Gap Treaty between Australia and Indonesia in December 1989. The application alleged that Australia's conduct had caused “particularly serious legal and moral damage to the people of East Timor and to Portugal, which will become material damage also if the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources begins.” Jurisdiction was founded on the parties' declarations under Article 36(2) of the Statute.

Key Words: Australia; East Timor; International Court of Justice; Portugal; treaty.


1 Iain G.M. Scobbie is Senior Lecturer, and Catriona J. Drew is Lecturer, International Law, School of Law, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland. Dr Scobbie was counsel to the Government of Portugal in this case. The views expressed in this paper should not be imputed either to that government or to his colleagues in the case.