International Experts Question Proceedings of South China Sea Arbitration

HAGUE, Netherlands, June 29, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- A group of experts on International Law voiced their doubts and concerns over the South China Sea Arbitration, warning the proceedings of the case are questionable.

The experts from Asia, Africa, the United States and Europe exchanged views on the case at the seminar, co-organized by Grotius Center for International Legal Studies, Leiden University and Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies, Wuhan University (WUIBOS).

"We heard the positions by the experts that the tribunal seemed to be manipulating words in its decision (on jurisdiction)," by Sienho Yee, Chief Expert at WUIBOS, noting that the tribunal did not respect China's explicit right to exclude territorial and delimitation disputes written in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Pemmaraju Sreenivasa Rao, former chairman of the UN International Law Commission, said the tribunal has put itself in a difficult position.

"The tribunal said it would not try to settle sovereignty disputes, but only to determine geological features. However, the Philippines' claims will eventually lead to the question of who owns it, and the tribunal has no jurisdiction over this matter," said Rao, who participated in the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea from 1973 to 1982 that led to the adoption of the UNCLOS.

Rao's opinion was echoed by Abdul G. Koroma, a former judge of the International Court of Justice who also took part in the historic conference.

"It's stated in the convention that a tribunal will not be entitled, will not have the right to pass judgment on a territorial and boundary dispute, because it has not been equipped; it has not been given competence to do so," Koroma said. "You cannot use the jurisdiction of one to determine the other."

"It's like someone who has a brain tumor and went to the doctor, and only asked for flu medication. We all know that it is not going to cure his headache," Michael Sheng-ti Gau, a professor of Public International Law at the Law of the Sea Institute, Taiwan Ocean University.

"The claims of the Philippines only scratch the surface, but do not cover the core dispute, which is a sovereignty issue. As the court cannot rule on something that is not presented in the claims, the result of the arbitration is unlikely to have any effect on the current situation," Gau said.

Wuhan University

CONTACT: Tian Yunhe, +86-18802706275,

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