International Court Rules: Continued display of authority only way to confirm nation’s claim to sovereignty!

Leo Olivero

Panorama Warned of Dangerous Sovereignty Situation Had Been Created

This newspaper reported last week, describing a very disturbing sovereignty related situation that had developed. Where the most senior enforcement agency the Royal Gibraltar Police had adopted a ‘dangerously selective operational enforcement policy’ generally it seems for now, in the area of policing illegal fishing in BGTW. 

Currently, illegal fishing in BGTW by Spanish fishing vessels is simply not policed or enforced by the RGP. This is a blatant selective policing enforcement policy that was strongly criticised by Panorama because of its obvious Sovereignty implications.

Today Panorama can confirm that the action not only by the RGP with the blessing of the Governor and GPA, but also the FCO policy with Spain regarding BGTW all ‘Legally Pose a Direct Risk to Gibraltar’s Sovereignty’.

According to the Commissioner of Police the RGP illegal fishing enforcement policy does not undermine Sovereignty. That comment we can confirm today is total rubbish and by inference so is the stand taken by Governor and GPA with their silence and the snubbing of important related questions by Panorama, where they have all jointly put the Sovereignty of Gibraltar at risk!

Why do we know this? Because international case law says it does! Sovereignty is put at risk when authority (in BGTW) is not displayed? This is exactly what the RGP current enforcement policy is being allowed to do:


Sovereignty Legal Status Under International Law – Case Stated

Panorama conducted an investigative research on the question of sovereignty disputes, particularly how nations had instituted proceedings before an international court of justice seeking judgments over Sovereignty of territories. Here we found considered case law and precedence including international court judgments on Sovereignty claims and disputes between nations.

Referring to one case in question, is the case regarding the ‘Legal Status of Eastern Greenland’ although international proceedings and judgment of the case by the Permanent Court of International Justice dates back to 1933 the legal judgment is far more current then Spain’s so called legal holy Gibraltar bible the 1713, infamous Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht! 

Continued Display of Authority Only Way to Confirm Nations Claim to Sovereignty

In fact, the Permanent Court of International Justice, now the United Nations (UN) International Court of Justice in 1933 in the ‘Eastern Greenland case’ stated that ”a claim to sovereignty based not upon some particular Act or Title such as a treaty of cession, but merely upon continued display of authority, involves two elements each of which must be shown to exist: the intention and will to act as sovereign and some actual exercise or display of such authority”.  The court pertinently pointed out that the jurisprudence of both the International Court of Justice as well as the Permanent Court of International Justice in the period which followed this particular dispute, established that a ”continued display of authority would imply ”effective administrative exercise” in the area concerned. Meaning in our case a ‘Display of Sovereignty not only of BGTW but our Land and Air!

Importantly, there are further similar stated cases (I will cite later) from the principal international court that has ruled a number of times when Sovereignty disputes have come before the bench where it has repeatedly confirmed that ‘a continued display of authority would in international legal proceedings confirm a nations claim to sovereignty’

This important ruling by the high powered international court at the Hague is considered primary evidence in that, a state or nation or more to the point Gibraltar, MUST continuously demonstrate and display its authority as the administrative power in ‘British Gibraltar Territorial Waters’. Currently it’s not. In fact Spanish vessels including fishing vessels display more authority in BGTW then our own!

Legally Proven to Undermine Our Sovereignty

For many years the UK as the Sovereign State and now Gibraltar with the illegal fishing issue has demonstrated very little or any real authority, on the contrary. And why for many years Panorama and I have criticised and claimed that the FCO’s current Gibraltar policy with Spain when dealing illegal incursions and more recently the RGP’s fishing enforcement policy in BGTW has now been exposed as legally undermining Gibraltar’s sovereignty. Particularly worrying now, should the Gibraltar Sovereignty status go before an International Court of Justice for adjudication!!!

We will continue to diligently report on this important national issue of great public interest where we will also focus soon on the Constitutional and Security related aspects of the current situation!

Now that there is legal precedent that dictates that ‘Displaying Authority’ is a hugely important prerequisite in any international law where the important issue of sovereignty is claimed by opposing nations, will things remain the same?

A Commissioner of Police or the Governor and certainly not the GPA are not best placed to decide what type of police action or activity or lack of it does or does not undermine the Sovereignty of Gibraltar!


Other Similar Sovereignty Stated Cases Before International Court of Justice

The decision of the International Court of Justice at the Hague in the ‘Sipadan Ligitan case’ whereby in 2002 Malaysia was granted sovereignty over the disputed island areas when ”it could point to various acts of administration that demonstrated an effective exercise of authority” this case is considered valuable precedent in deciding the fate of the on-going South China Sea dispute.

In this same case the International Court of Justice, made Judgment concerning Sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan (Indonesia/Malaysia). The court in its Judgment, which was final, without appeal and binding for the Parties, found that having found that neither of the Parties had a treaty-based title to Ligitan and Sipadan, the Court considered the question whether Indonesia or Malaysia could hold title to the disputed islands by virtue of the effectives cited by them.  In this regard, the Court determined whether the Parties’ claims to sovereignty are based on activities evidencing an actual, continued exercise of authority over the islands, i.e., meaning the intention and will to act as sovereign state!

The International Court of Justice The Hague

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.

The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).

The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.