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Case Concerning Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions Between Qatar

and Bahrain (Qatar v. Bahrain) 1994-2001

1. This case was brought before the International Court of Justice in 1991
regarding proceedings brought against Bahrain on behalf of Qatar with respect to
disputed maritime boundaries: the Hawar islands, the shoals of Dibal and Qitat
Jaradah, and the delimitation of maritime boundaries between the two states.

2. Qatar held that the ICJ had jurisdiction to hear the case on the basis of the
Bahraini formula formulated by the 2 states through agreements in December of
1987 and 1990. The court upheld the minutes from these agreements created
rights and obligations for the Parties involved and established the courts
jurisdiction in the case. A long history of conflict regarding territory dispute exists
between these 2 nations dating back to Great Britains colonial occupation of the
area. Qatar insists that Bahrain illegally occupied the Hawar Islands in 1937 while
Bahrain maintains this was a legitimate act of continuing state administration in
its own territory. In 1946, the Bahrain Petroleum Company Ltd. Sought
permissions from the British government to drill in certain continental shelf areas
the British might have considered belonged to Qatar. The British government
declared sovereign rights to Bahrain over the Dibal and Jaradah shoals as well as
the Hawar islands, not including Janan.

3. Qatar requested the court declare the states sovereignty over the Hawar Island
and the Dibal and Qitat Jaradah shoals. They also requested the court declare that
Bahrain has no sovereignty over the islands of Janan and Zubarah and that any
claim by Bahrain concerning archipelagic baselines and are for fishing for pearls
and swimming fish are not relevant to the determination of a maritime

4. Bahrain requested the court declare their sovereignty over Zubarah, the Hawar
Islands, and over all other disputed territories involved in this dispute.


1. Which state, Qatar or Bahrain, is sovereign over the Hawar islands, Zubarah
and the shoals of Dibal and Qitat Jaradah ?

2. What is the maritime delimitation between the 2 states?


1. The court ruled that it could not accept Bahrains premise that Great Britain
had always recognized Bahrains sovereignty over Zubarah as a legitimate
claim to sovereignty. Based on the 1913 Anglo-Ottoman Convention,
authority over the territory of Zubarah was granted to the Sheikh of Qatar and
his action there in 1937 was an exercise of his authority, not unlawful use of
force. Therefore Qatar has sovereignty over Zubarah.

2. The court ruled, in respect to the Hawar Islands not including Janan Island,
that sovereignty over the islands had to be determined based on agreements
between the states from 1938 to 1939. In 1938, Qatar entrusted the question of
the Hawar Islands to the British government, as did the ruler of Bahrain. Qatar
held that the 1938 proceedings granting sovereignty to Bahrain were
prejudiced and unequal and therefore cannot be upheld. The Court ruled that
this is not sufficient reason to invalidate the 1939 decision and concluded that
Bahrain has sovereignty over the Hawar islands.

3. The court in respect to the Janan Island first considered that Qatar and Bahrain
had different perceptions of what constitutes Janan Island. According to Qatar,
the island is 700 meters long and 175 meters wide situated off the southwester
tip of the Hawar islands. Bahrain however refers to Janan as two islands
situated between one and two nautical miles off southern Jazirat Hawar. The
court ruled to treat Janan as one island and considered again the 1939 British
decision to determine that Qatar has sovereignty over Janan Island, as decided
in 1939 and interpreted in 1947.

4. With regard to the delimitation boundary, the court rendered that its decision
would be made in accordance with international law to establish a single
maritime boundary. With respect to delimitation of the territorial sea, the court
referred to Article 15 of the 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea that refers
the practice of drawing a provisionally equidistant line between the states and
then adjusts it in the existence of special circumstances. To determine the
equidistant line the baselines of each state must be determined. In accordance
with Article 5 of the 1982 Convention. The court necessarily had to consider
the opposing state view of whether Qitar Jaradah is an island or a low-tide
elevation and it decided that it in fact is an island on the sovereignty of
Bahrain. Further more the court decided that the low time elevation of Fasht
ad Dibal should be disregarded in drawing a baseline as the territory
overlapped into the territorial seas of the two states. After establishing these
baselines, the Court established a delimitation boundary described as such: it
follows a north-easterly direction which then turns in an easterly direction
passing between Jazirat Hawar and Janan; it then turns north and passes
between the Hawar Islands and the Qatar peninsula continuing in a northern
directly leaving the low-tide elevation of Fasht Bu Thur and Fasht al Azm on
the Baharini side, and the low-tide elevations of Qita a el Erge and Qitat ash
Shajarah on the Qatari side; finally it will pass between Qitat Jaradah and
Fast ad Dibal, leaving Qitat Jaradah on the Bahraini side and Fasht ad Dibal

on the Qatari side.

5. In order to establish a delimitation of the continental shelf and EEZ, the court
again draw a provision equidistant line and considered any special
circumstances which would require and adjustment of this line. The Court
ruled not to consider Bahrains claim that the existence of pearling industry
should have an affect on this line based on the fact that the industry had
ceased to exist. The court effectively designated this maritime boundary as
such: the line shall be formed by a line originating from a point to the north-
west of Fasht ad Dibal, it will meet the equidistance line as adjusted to take
account of the absence of effect given to Fash al Jarim, and it will finally
follow this adjusted equidistance line between the maritime zone of Iran, as
well as Bahrain and Qatar.


1. Claims of sovereignty over islands and low-tide elevations as disputed over

between Qatar and Bahrain can only be legitimized if grounded in official
agreements or treaties. For example the 1913 Anglo-Ottoman Convention
granted authority over the territory of Zubarah the Sheikh of Qatar, which the
Court upheld.

2. The Court relied on the provisions of the 1982 Convention of the Law of the
Sea to establish the delimitation boundary as well as the EEZ between
Qatar and Bahrain to ensure the boundary was created in accordance with
international law in the way that was most justly in agreement with the


This particular case is important in that it serves as a template for the numerous
factors that must be considered when multiple states are in dispute over how a particular
delimitation boundary should be drawn. The court followed the proper standards of
international law as set up in the 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea and created a
boundary that each state would be required to adhere to. I would argue that this action of
both the states and the ICJ shows that such boundary disputes can be settled effectively
and peacefully within the courts the states of the world have agreed to be subject to.


Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Question between Qatar and Bahrain

(Qatar v. Bahrain) Judgment of 16 March 2001, ICJ Judgments

United Nations. The United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. Articles
5,15. 1982

The Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, Article III and IV.


Katherine R. Rynone, November 5, 2009