Final Award Rendered in Abyei Arbitration

by Chris Borgen

On July 22nd, the tribunal arbitrating the dispute between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/ Army over the Abyei region rendered its final award concerning boundary delimitation (and, effectively, oil resource exploitation rights). (Links to the webcasts of the oral proceedings here.) The Washington Post reports:

Sudan’s fragile peace overcame a major hurdle Wednesday when a legal panel drew a compromise map splitting an oil-rich region between the government-held north and the semiautonomous south controlled by former rebels.

The court ruling on the Abyei region gave the northern government control of significant oil fields and handed the southern administration a large area that contains the home villages of many of those who fought during a 20-year civil war.

The international community urged the north and south to swiftly implement the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which was hailed as just by both sides.

“The tribunal gave something to everybody,” said Vanessa Jimenez, a lawyer for the south.

The compromise solution had implications not only for oil resources (which some claim are already largely tapped in Abyei) but also water resources and grazing rights. The Abyei arbitration thus provides a snapshot of what may be increasingly common: complex resource allocation issues embedded in broader conflicts.  Here, at least, an international dispute resolution mechanism (the Permanent Court of Arbitration or “PCA”) has played an important role in stabilizing the situation. The Post quoted Riek Machar Teny, the deputy chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, as  saying “I think this is going to consolidate peace in Sudan.”

The Abyei arbitration also points to an institutional strength of the PCA, in that it has optional rules for resolving disputes when only one party is a state, as in this case (available here in .pdf). The International Court of Justice, by contrast, would have jurisdiction in contentious cases only between two or more states (See art. 34(1) of the ICJ Statute).

http://opiniojuris.org/2009/07/27/final-award-rendered-in-abyei-arbitration/

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