Debevoise Helps Secure Another Significant Victory for Qatar before the International Court of Justice

14 July 2020

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, rejects the appeals filed by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt relating to the jurisdiction of the ICAO Council.

Today, the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, ruled in favor of Qatar, unanimously rejecting the appeals filed by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt (the “Four States”) and, by a vote of 15 to 1, holding that the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization has jurisdiction over the dispute.

Following the imposition on 5 June 2017 of aviation prohibitions on all Qatar-registered aircraft, Qatar filed two applications with the ICAO Council, alleging violations by the Four States of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (“Chicago Convention”) and the International Air Services Transit Agreement (“IASTA”). The Four States then filed preliminary objections to the Council’s jurisdiction, which were rejected by the ICAO Council in June 2018.

In July 2018, the Four States filed two applications before the ICJ appealing the decisions of the ICAO Council. Following a four-day hearing before the Court last December, the Court resoundingly rejected the Four States’ appeals. The cases will now be remanded to the ICAO Council to proceed to the merits.

Debevoise partner Catherine Amirfar, who leads Debevoise’s representation of Qatar, states, “Today’s judgments mark yet another victory for Qatar. It brings Qatar one step closer to resolving the unjustified civil aviation prohibitions that have been in place for over three years, and have had significant negative consequences in the Gulf region, and beyond.”

In addition to representing Qatar in these proceedings, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP also represents Qatar before the ICJ in a case brought under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“CERD”), as well as in conciliation proceedings before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination under the CERD, and in other cases before other international tribunals.

The Debevoise team representing Qatar before the Court was led by partner Catherine Amirfar and counsel Floriane Lavaud, and included associates Merryl Lawry-White, Julianne Marley, Jessica Polebaum, and Rhianna Hoover. Qatar’s legal team also included Dr. Mohammed Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, Legal Adviser to H.E. the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar and Dean of Qatar University College of Law, as Qatar’s Agent, and counsel advocates Prof. Vaughan Lowe of Essex Court Chambers, Prof. Pierre Klein of Université libre de Bruxelles, Ms. Loretta Malintoppi of 39 Essex Chambers, and Mr. Lawrence H. Martin of Foley Hoag LLP.

The full text of the ICJ’s decision can be found here.