On 13 June the States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea elected seven members of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (press release). Among the judges that were re-elected for another term of nine years (beginning 1 October 2008 ) is the president of the Tribunal, Judge Wolfrum (Germany). The two new judges come from Algeria (Mr Bouguetaia) and the Russian Federation (Mr Golitsyn). The seven elected members are connected to the States Parties in the following way: two seats allocated to the Group of African States, two for the Group of Asian States, one for the Group of Latin American and the Caribbean States, one for the Eastern European Group, one for the Western European and Other States Group. What is interesting is that the two judges for the African States could be elected only in the second and third round of elections (meeting coverage). None of the candidates put forward in the first round and only one candidate suggested in the second round was able to gather the support of a two-thirds majority of the votes.
It remains to be seen if the meeting (lasting until the 20 June) can send some vitalizing impulses to the States Parties and their will to use the ITLOS as a tool for conflict resolution. At the moment, merely one case is pending before the Tribunal (the Case concerning the Conservation and Sustainable Exploitation of Swordfish Stocks in the South-Eastern Pacific Ocean between Chile and the European Community). This is mainly due to the fact that States Parties have the possibility to turn to the ICJ or arbitration (regarding law of the sea related disputes) instead of the ITLOS. However, as the president of the meeting of the States Parties underlined:
“The international community cannot but benefit from a strong and universally supported and implemented international legal regime in the oceans, so essential for the maintenance of international peace and security as well as for the sustainable use of the ocean resources, navigation and protection of the marine environment.”
And the ITLOS certainly provides an excellent opportunity to actually and consistently support and implement this legal regime.