Questions relating to the Seizure and Detention of Certain Documents and Data (Timor-Leste v. Australia)
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Overview of the case
On 17 December 2013 Timor-Leste instituted proceedings against Australia with regard to the seizure and subsequent detention “by Agents of Australia of documents, data and other property which belongs to Timor‑Leste and/or which Timor‑Leste has the right to protect under international law”. Timor-Leste contended that these items were seized in the offices of one of its legal advisers in Narrabundah, Australian Capital Territory, allegedly under a warrant issued under Article 25 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act of 1979. Timor‑Leste claimed that the items seized include documents and data containing correspondence between the Government of Timor‑Leste and its legal advisers relating to a pending arbitration under the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty between Timor‑Leste and Australia. As basis for jurisdiction of the Court, Timor‑Leste invoked its declaration of 21 September 2012 under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute, and that made by Australia on 22 March 2002 under the same provision.
On 17 December 2013 Timor‑Leste also filed a Request for the indication of provisional measures in order to protect its rights and to prevent the use of the seized documents and data by Australia against its interests and rights in the pending arbitration and with regard to other matters relating to the Timor Sea and its resources. Timor‑Leste further requested the President of the Court to exercise his power under Article 74, paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court.
In a letter dated 18 December 2013, the President of the Court, acting pursuant to Article 74, called on Australia to “act in such a way as to enable any Order the Court will make on the Request for provisional measures to have its appropriate effects, in particular to refrain from any act which might cause prejudice to the rights claimed by the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste in the present proceedings”.
After hearing the Parties, the Court, in an Order dated 3 March 2014 on the Request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Timor‑Leste, decided that Australia should ensure that the content of the seized material was not in any way or at any time used by any person or persons to the disadvantage of Timor‑Leste until the case was concluded; should keep under seal the seized documents and electronic data and any copies thereof until further decision of the Court; and should not interfere in any way in communications between Timor‑Leste and its legal advisers in connection with the arbitration under the Timor Sea Treaty of 20 May 2002 between Timor‑Leste and Australia, with any future bilateral negotiations concerning maritime delimitation, or with any other related procedure between the two States, including this case before the Court.
Hearings were scheduled to begin on 17 September 2014, but they did not take place, since the Parties, by a joint letter of 1 September 2014, requested the Court “to adjourn the hearing . . . in order to enable them to seek an amicable settlement”.
Several months later, in a letter of 25 March 2015, Australia stated that it “wishe[d] to return the materials removed from the premises of Collaery Lawyers on 3 December 2013” that were the subject of the proceedings, and consequently requested a modification of the Court’s Order of 3 March 2014 indicating provisional measures. By an Order of 22 April 2015, the Court authorized the return of the documents and copies at issue.
By a letter of 2 June 2015, Timor‑Leste informed the Court that it wished to discontinue the proceedings. Australia having informed the Court that it had no objection to the discontinuance of the case, the President of the Court, by an Order dated 11 June 2015, placed on record the discontinuance by Timor‑Leste of the proceedings and directed that the case be removed from the List.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.