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Mamadou Hébié represents Latvia and the African Union in landmark use of force and climate change cases

Dr Mamadou Hébié, Associate Professor of International Law at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, served last week as legal counsel in the world’s first advisory proceedings concerning climate change before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), on the one hand, and in the case brought by Ukraine against the Russian Federation before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with respect to the 2022 war in Ukraine, on the other hand.

Before the ICJ, Dr Hébié acted as Counsel for Latvia who intervened in the dispute between Ukraine and Russia. Latvia argued that the 1948 Genocide Convention allowed settlement before the ICJ of disputes where a State, alleging the commission of genocide in the territory of another State, uses force against the latter under the pretence of preventing the purported genocide.

The Court will deliver its judgment on its jurisdiction no later than 6 February 2024.

Before ITLOS, Dr Hébié, acting as Counsel and Advocate, presented the arguments of the African Union on the specific obligations of States to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change on the marine environment under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Following the hearings, Dr Hébié said: 'It was an honour for me to participate in this landmark case and on behalf the African Union. In the case before ITLOS, I argued that the Convention obliged States to carry out scientific research, develop the relevant technology, and adopt practical and legislative measures to address climate change, and that they also have specific obligations not to degrade marine biodiversity, to take measures to ensure its resilience, to allow it to regenerate, and to reach its full potential.'

He further clarified that States should cooperate for an effective protection and preservation of the marine environment, including by sharing with developing countries the scientific knowledge, technology and financing necessary for developing countries to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. Even more, climate change called for a just and equitable international economic world order that would allow developing countries to mobilise their own resources to participate in the collective effort to protect and preserve the marine environment from the adverse impacts of climate change.

The Tribunal is currently expected to deliver its advisory opinion in early 2024.

Background on the procedures

On 27 February 2022, Ukraine introduced, in the context of the military aggression by Russia, a case before the Court against Russia with respect to Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v. Russian Federation: 32 States intervening). Russia objected to the jurisdiction of the Court claiming that issues of use of force did not fall within the scope of the Convention. Thirty-two States, including Latvia, were authorised upon request to participate in the proceedings. For further information, click here.

On 12 December 2022, COSIS - an intergovernmental organisation composed of Small Island States - requested an advisory opinion from the Tribunal concerning States' obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Thirty-four States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), nine intergovernmental organisations, including the African Union, and many non-governmental organisations participated in the proceedings. For further information, click here.

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