Whale Wars: Is the Threatened Australia ICJ Lawsuit Just Politics?

Whale Wars: Is the Threatened Australia ICJ Lawsuit Just Politics?

Two different but interesting views of Australia’s threat to bring Japan to the ICJ over whaling.

Over at The Jurist, Don Rothwell of Australian National University provides some background and legal context for Australia’s lawsuit. As I understand it, Australia could claim that Japan is actually violating Australia’s 200 mile exclusive economic zone (assuming certain Australian Antarctic claims were accepted).  But it seems more likely that Australia will try to make a claim under the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. As I’ve suggested, this seems a very tough case to make, and Japan may get the IWC to alter its rules anyway.

Over at the Australian, Greg Sheridan points out that the Japanese government is not taking Australia very seriously on this issue, and sees it as essentially a domestic political matter for Australians.  And he goes on:

As well, observers of all stripes are dumbfounded at the Rudd government’s decision to blindside Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada just before his visit to Australia. Canberra did this by announcing, on the eve of Okada’s arrival in Australia and without any warning to the Japanese, that it had decided to take Japan to the International Court of Justice over whaling. There is not the slightest chance of this court action succeeding. To insult Okada, the most pro-Australian member of Tokyo’s core leadership, in this manner was extremely foolish.

Emphasis added. I think Sheridan is not far wrong. Unless Australia is going to make the EEZ argument, it doesn’t seem like it has a very strong case.  And even if they somehow win, there is very little chance of Japan complying with the ICJ order.

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Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

I do not understand the defeatism.  Clearly Australia has a problem with Japan.  Each country has its domestic political reasons for having their position.  Australia is taking this action at this time to raise the profile of the dispute so that it gets more attention by Japan.  Japan can try to change the rules and Australia can try to resist that change.  If this is sufficiently important for Australia or Japan they can leak issues in other areas such as economic issues to create a bigger mess.  At some point, no need to go to nuclear weapons a solution is found.  Process at work.