Locus Standi Before the International Court of Justice for Violations of the World Heritage Convention
Transnational Dispute Management, Vol. 5, 2013
10 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2014 Last revised: 3 May 2015
Date Written: 2013
The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972 (hereinafter the 'World Heritage Convention') obliges State parties to protect world heritage for future generations. However, if a State party fails to comply with such obligations, there is no dispute settlement mechanism expressly identified in the Convention. Additionally, the destruction of world heritage sites has taken place on several occasions, being the most recent example the destruction seen in Timbuktu, Mali.
In the seminal Barcelona Traction case, the International Court of Justice (hereinafter the 'ICJ') held that there are obligations under international law which are erga omnes. By definition, all States have an interest in asserting claims for violations of obligations erga omnes. It has been consistently stated that obligations under the World Heritage Convention are erga omnes partes.
The ICJ has never granted its jurisdiction solely on the basis of obligations erga omnes. However, the ICJ has recently applied an innovative criterion by deciding that State parties to a treaty which contains obligations of such a character (or erga omnes partes), have standing to invoke the responsibility of other State parties for alleged breaches of such obligations.
The purpose of this article is to analyze, first, the character of the obligation to protect world cultural and natural heritage under the World Heritage Convention; second, the evolution of the case law of the ICJ regarding obligations erga omnes and erga omnes partes; and third, the adequacy of current international law and the possibility of successfully bringing claims before the ICJ for violations to the World Heritage Convention. The article aims at proving that the ICJ, in light of its most recent case law, may consider that all State parties can have standing for any violation of the Convention.
Keywords: Cultural Heritage, erga omnes, International Court of Justice, ICJ, UNESCO, World Heritage
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