Abyei Arbitration

Source: BBCOn 21 June 2008, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) agreed to submit their dispute concerning the boundaries of the oil-rich Abyei area to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague. The dispute focused on whether a commission of experts, the ‘Abyei Boundaries Commission’ (ABC Experts), exceeded their mandate in determining the region’s borders. The area is important for the 2011 referendum on independence of South Sudan under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The tribunal consisted of five arbitrators, two nominated by each party and a fifth nominated by the designated arbitrators. Written submissions were filed by the parties in December 2008 and February 2009, with oral pleadings taking place from 18 to 23 April 2009.

On 22 July 2009 the tribunal delivered its Final Award. It found that the ABC Experts had not exceeded their mandate in adopting a “tribal” interpretation, but had exceeded the mandate by failing to give sufficient reasons for their conclusions regarding the Northern shared boundary and the Eastern and Western boundaries. Based on scholarly, documentary and cartographic evidence, the tribunal delimited the regions new borders. It reduced the size of the region and gave greater territorial control to the Government of Sudan to the areas containing oil fields.

Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh issued a dissenting opinion, claiming that the logic of the Tribunal was “unpersuasive (let alone convincing), self-contradicting, result-oriented, in many respects cavalier, insufficiently critical and unsupported by evidence, and indeed flying in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.”

The Permanent Court of Arbitration

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