The North Sea Continental Shelf Cases: Landmark or High Watermark?
LANDMARK CASES IN PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW, pp. 283-306, Eirik Bjorge and Cameron Miles, eds, Hart Publishing, 2017
38 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2017 Last revised: 17 Nov 2017
Date Written: April 18, 2017
This contribution discusses the judgment of the International Court of Justice in the North Sea Continental Shelf cases between Denmark and the Netherlands on the one hand, and Germany on the other. After setting out the background to the dispute and the judgment of the Court, it focuses on the Court's discussion of the sources of international law and their relationship, as well as on the definition and the rules for the delimitation of the continental shelf. It concludes that the cases are indeed a landmark as to the former set of issues, but much less so as to the latter. It was rather the high watermark of geomorphological approaches to the continental shelf and of equitable principles for its delimitation, but the law has now moved on despite habitual incantations of the catchy expressions used by the Court with respect to the continental shelf.
Keywords: custom, treaty, sources of international law, relationship between sources, codification, crystallization, development, customary international law, continental shelf, natural prolongation, equitable principles, equidistance
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