Outcome of the Case
On 23 May 2008, the ICJ issued its judgment, in which it decided that sovereignty over Pedra Branca belongs to Singapore, sovereignty over Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia, and sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the State in the territorial waters of which it is located.
In the case of Pedra Branca, the ICJ held that while the Sultanate of Johor had original title to Pedra Branca, sovereignty over the island had passed to Singapore by 1980 (when the dispute crystallised). This was demonstrated by the concrete acts of sovereignty conducted over the island by Singapore and its predecessors, taken together with the failure of Malaysia and its predecessors to respond to these acts.
After the ICJ’s judgment was released, both Singapore and Malaysia agreed to abide by the ICJ’s ruling. A ‘Malaysia-Singapore Joint Technical Committee on the Implementation of the ICJ Judgment on Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge’ (MSJTC) was formed by both countries to implement the ICJ’s judgment. Both countries have agreed that the next step would be for the MSJTC to move into the delimitation of maritime boundaries.
The MSJTC has met seven times since 2008. Joint Press Statements of the MSJTC can be found under the ‘Further References’ section.
In February 2017, Malaysia filed an application for revision of the ICJ’s 2008 judgment. Under Article 61 of the Statute of the ICJ, an application for revision of a judgment may be made only when it is based upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, and which was, when the judgment was given, unknown to the Court and the party claiming revision, provided such ignorance was not due to negligence. Such an application must be made within ten years of the date of the judgment, and at latest within six months of the discovery of the new fact. Singapore filed its Written Observations (WOs) on the admissibility of Malaysia’s revision application with the ICJ on 24 May 2017.
In June 2017, Malaysia filed an application for interpretation of the ICJ’s 2008 Judgment. Pursuant to Article 60 of the Statute of the ICJ, the Court may consider such an application if there is a dispute as to the meaning or scope of the Judgment. Malaysia’s application for interpretation is additional to, and separate from, its 2 February 2017 application for revision of the ICJ’s Judgment. Unlike a revision application which seeks to revise or alter the Judgment based on purported newly-discovered facts, an interpretation application seeks to clarify a judgment. Singapore filed its WOs on the admissibility of Malaysia’s interpretation application with the ICJ on 30 October 2017.
The next step for both the revision and interpretation cases is for the Parties to present their oral arguments after the ICJ has fixed the schedule for the oral proceedings.
Significance of the Case
The ICJ’s 2008 judgment marks an important milestone in Singapore-Malaysia bilateral relations and the three-decade long territorial dispute. The case also demonstrates two key tenets of Singapore’s foreign policy: the peaceful settlement of disputes and adherence to the international rule of law.