The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nation’s top court, has backed Qatar in a dispute with four neighbours that imposed an air blockade against Doha since 5 June 2017. 

The Hague-based ICJ on Tuesday rejected the appeal by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) against a decision by the world civil aviation body in favour of Qatar over sovereign airspace, ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said on Tuesday, Al Jazeera reported.

The blockading countries have prohibited Qatar-registered aircrafts from flying to or from their airports and overflying their national airspaces, in flagrant violation of international aviation law. In two judgements released today, the ICJ rejected all three grounds of appeal raised by the blockading countries, finding that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has jurisdiction to hear Qatar’s claims.

In a media statement released by The Government Communications Office (GCO), HE the Minister of Transport and Communications of the State of Qatar, Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti said:

We welcome today’s decision by the ICJ that will see the Blockading States finally face justice for violating international aviation rules. We are confident that the ICAO will ultimately find these actions unlawful. This is the latest in a series of rulings that expose the Blockading Countries’ continued disregard for international law and due process. Step by step their arguments are being dismantled, and Qatar’s position vindicated.’

Since the start of the illegal blockade in June 2017, Qatar has maintained that the Blockading States have acted illegally and in violation of international law. Today’s verdict is the latest in a series of international judgements vindicating this position and finding in favour of the State of Qatar. It follows a ruling by the World Trade Organization in June that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia breached global trade rules by failing to take action against, and instead actively promoting, broadcast pirate beoutQ.

Qatar’s decision to bring claims before the ICAO follows repeated attempts to negotiate an amicable settlement, which have been consistently rejected by the Blockading States.

In the dispute under the Chicago Convention, the ICJ ruled that:

  • With respect to the Blockading States’ first ground of appeal, which alleged that the ICAO Council “failed to uphold fundamental principles of due process,” the ICJ unanimously found that “the procedures followed by the Council did not prejudice in any fundamental way the requirements of a just procedure.”
  • The ICJ also rejected the Blockading States’ second ground of appeal, which claimed that the “real issue” in dispute was not their violations of the Chicago Convention and IASTA, but their blatantly false accusations that Qatar supports and finances terrorism. The ICJ once again refused to give any credence to those falsehoods and unanimously concluded that “the Council did not err when it rejected the first preliminary objection by the Appellants relating to its jurisdiction,” and that the claims brought before the Council were admissible.
  • The Blockading States’ third ground of appeal, which incredibly claimed that Qatar never made a “genuine attempt to initiate negotiations” prior to filing its claims under the Chicago Convention and IASTA, was equally unanimously rejected. According to the ICJ, “Qatar made a genuine attempt within ICAO to settle by negotiation its disagreement with the Appellants regarding the interpretation and application of the Chicago Convention.” It accordingly rejected the Blockading States’ third ground of appeal as well.

The Court reached virtually identical conclusions in rejecting the Blockading States’ appeal of the ICAO Council’s decision in the IASTA proceedings. In the words of the Court, ‘the competence of ICAO unquestionably extends to questions of overflight of the territory of contracting States, a matter that is addressed in both the Chicago Convention and the IASTA’.

Qatar Airways Statement: 

Qatar Airways welcomes the judgment of the International Court of Justice affirming that the ICAO Council has the jurisdiction to hear any disagreement relating to the interpretation and implementation of the Chicago Convention 1944 and the International Air Services Transit Agreement. 

We look forward to observing the return of the State of Qatar to Montreal to urge the ICAO Council to condemn the illegal airspace blockade of it and take appropriate actions to require the four blockading States to comply with their obligations under international law in order to restore the normalcy of international civil aviation.

In line with the ruling of the ICJ and the legal precedent allowing the State of Qatar to continue its case at ICAO against the blockading States, Qatar Airways will pursue its case for appropriate compensation of the financial injuries inflicted on Qatar Airways as a result of the illegal airspace blockade.

The arbitrary and abusive measures that these four States have taken against us have devastated our carefully planned decades-long programme for investment and growth in those countries; they have arbitrarily prevented us from serving hundreds of thousands of passengers, and transporting tens of thousands of tons of cargo to and from each of these countries annually. 

At Qatar Airways, we firmly believe that travel is a right for all and that this world is all of ours to explore.  Qatar Airways will pursue all available legal remedies to secure full compensation to protect our rights and the rights of our customers.

Source: Government Communications Office