From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Dec 19 2008 - 13:43:57 EST
Legal battle for Sudan's oil-rich region begins
By BADRU MULUMBA
Friday, December 19 2008 at 17:52
The legal battle for Sudan's oil-rich area of Abyei has began.
The North says the boundary, as defined by the Abyei Boundary Commission
(ABC) experts, is too far north. The South says the experts were spot-on.
Their evidence, or what Southern Sudan sees as evidence, stretches 300 pages
of facts and legal arguments. It includes maps, photos, historical records,
and witness statements from chiefs, elders, officials and international
Sudan's former rebels on Thursday submitted arguments to the tribunal that
will determine the status of the oil-rich region, officials said.
This is the first time since arbitration began in October that the Sudan
ex-rebels and the Government of Sudan told the Permanent Court of
Arbitration, in writing, why they believe a decision in their favour is
deserved, Deng Kuol, a member of the Technical Committee on the Abyei
Arbitration, said in a statement from The Hague, Netherlands.
The parties first appeared in The Hague for procedural hearings in November.
Sudan's ex-rebels are arguing that under the law and based on the facts of
the case, the ABC Experts' findings were sound and deserving of the
Tribunal's deference and respect.
"The Sudan People's Liberation Army's (submission) makes it clear to the
Tribunal that this is nothing more than a cynical attempt by the Government
of Sudan to re-litigate an issue that was already decided by the ABC when it
issued its final and binding decision to the presidency back in July of
2005," Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit is quoted as saying.
The submissions come just days after clashes broke out, again, last week
between the joint north-south force and the Abyei police. A northern soldier
was killed in the violence.
The recent fighting resulted from an argument between a north Sudan soldier
and a market trader, leading to a shootout with the police. Nine people were
wounded and 8,000 people fled from the disputed area.
"Recent events in Abyei only further demonstrate the need for an immediate
and comprehensive solution to the problem," Luka Biong Deng, minister for
Presidential Affairs in Southern Sudan, said on Thursday.
Under the north-south peace agreement, Abyei would determine through a
referendum in 2011 whether to belong to the south or to the north.
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and the Public International Law
and Policy Group represent the South at the arbitration.
The parties forwarded the Abyei issue to the arbitration tribunal following
the violent clashes in May, when a Sudan Armed Forces battalion bombed the
area to the ground, displacing tens of thousands.
The tribunal is expected to decide whether the ABC experts exceeded their
mandate in defining the boundaries of the nine Dinka Ngok chiefdoms
transferred to Kordofan in 1905.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement says the decision of the experts was final
but the North has since argued that the experts overshot their mandate.
Kuol said the two parties will review the arguments and present
counter-arguments to the tribunal on February 13.
The two will also present another written submission to the Tribunal on
February 28, ahead of oral hearings scheduled for April 18 to 23, 2009.
"According to the fast-track process agreed upon by the parties, the
Tribunal is expected to issue its final decision (known as an "award") by
July of the new year," said Kuol.
According to the Abyei Roadmap Agreement, the Tribunal will issue an award
calling for the "full and immediate implementation of the ABC Report" if it
finds that the ABC did not exceed its mandate.
The Tribunal will define the boundaries of Abyei based on the submission of
the parties if it finds that the experts overshot their mandate.
In the submission, the Sudan ex-rebels are arguing that up to its final
presentation to the ABC, the Government of Sudan representative, Ambassador
Mohammed Dirdeiry, raised no prior objections to the ABC's work but in fact
praised the ABC.
Ambassador Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed is the agent for the Government of Sudan
in the case.
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