Tuesday, March 04, 2014

ICJ orders Australia to stop spying on East Timor

The International Court of Justice has ordered Australia to stop spying on East Timor:

Australia has been ordered to cease spying on East Timor and its legal advisers, in a landmark decision by the International Court of Justice relating to a bitter dispute between the two countries over $40 billion of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.


''Australia shall not interfere in any way in communications between Timor Leste and its legal advisers in connection with the pending arbitration under the Timor Sea Treaty of 20 May 2002 between Timor Leste and Australia; with any future bilateral negotiations concerning maritime delimitation; or with any other related procedure between the two states, including the present case before the court,'' ICJ president Peter Tomka said.

The ruling endorses a request by East Timor. It is a provisional measure until the case is concluded in the ICJ but is wide in scope, relating not only to the arbitration in the Hague and case before the ICJ, but also any other matter relating to the dispute over the Timor Sea reserves, which includes the huge Greater Sunrise deposit.

Its hugely embarrassing for Australia to have a binding ruling like this handed down against it (especially by such a large majority - the only dissent was from an Australian judge appointed by the current government). But more than that: international negotiations are a prime target for the Five Eyes spy network. And the ICJ has just said that spying on them is a breach of international law.

The next question is how the primary case (that the Timor Sea Treaty should be set aside due to Australian spying) goes. There won't be a decision on that for a year at least, but if it goes against Australia it will be another example of how spying blows back and spies are actually harmful to the "national interest" that their advocates carp on about.