applied for delimitation, Malta insisted that the Court be pleased to actually demarcate the boundaries according to equitable principles by taking into account all the relevant circumstances. While considering the parties’ prayers, the Court had to pass its judgement (Continental Shelf, 1985) by 14 /3 votes after examining the various principles and factors involved. How the Court responded to the parties’ respective claims and how a compromise (Court’s finding of a middle ground) was arrived at shall be seen hereunder.
Malta has both inhabited and uninhabited islands lying approximately 183 nautical miles north of Libya and 43 nautical miles South of Sicily. While Malta’s claim was that delimitation line should be at an equal distance between the States, Libya’s claim was that the rift zone or the deep canyon lying near the coast of Malta should be taken as the natural boundary and serve as the delimitation line separating the continental shelves between the States. However, the Court informed that the Special Agreement (1976) between the parties determined its jurisdiction besides the competing claims of Italy which was not a party to the dispute. What the Special Agreement had stipulated was to require the Court on declaring the principles of law that applied to the dispute and how they should be applied. The agreement provided for drawing of the actual line by the parties themselves after the Court’s findings. A fact that cannot be ignored is the attempt of Italy to intervene in the dispute which the Court did not entertain by a separate judgement. (ICJ, 1984) which actually followed a precedent in which Malta’s application to intervene in Libya and Tunisia dispute was denied by the Court (ICJ, 1981). The Court proceeded with the present case after expressing its view that the law applicable was customary international law which enjoined that delimitation should be guided by equitable principles after considering all relevant circumstances.