UN court rules in maritime dispute between Singapore and Malaysia

UN court rules in maritime dispute between Singapore and Malaysia

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Singapore has won sovereignty over a disputed island and Malaysia has been awarded control over a series of permanently above-water rocks in a ruling issued today by the United Nations principal judicial organ in a maritime dispute between the Asian neighbours.

Singapore has won sovereignty over a disputed island and Malaysia has been awarded control over a series of permanently above-water rocks in a ruling issued today by the United Nations principal judicial organ in a maritime dispute between the Asian neighbours.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) said it had found by 12 votes to four that Pedra Blanca/Pulau Batu Puteh, a granite island in the Straits of Singapore on which a lighthouse stands, belongs to Singapore and has done so since at least 1980, when the dispute between the two countries crystallized.

In the case of Middle Rocks, which consist of a group of rocks that are permanently above water, the ICJ – which sits in The Hague in the Netherlands – ruled 15 to one that it belongs to Malaysia.

The court also noted that South Ledge, a nearby low-tide elevation, falls within the apparently overlapping territorial waters generated by Pedra Blanca/Pulau Batu Puteh and by Middle Rocks. Given that the two countries have not asked the court to draw the line of delimitation, the judges said, by 15 to one, that sovereignty belongs to the State in the territorial waters of which it is located.

Also known as the World Court, the ICJ hears disputes between States and its decisions are binding and without appeal.