Professor Sean Dean Murphy of the George Washington University Law School stressed this when he addressed the Margins of the International Law Week, hosted by the Philippines and held at the UN headquarters in New York recently.
“Courts and tribunals do not regard non-participation as resulting in a default,” said Murphy, who was elected in 2011 by the UN General Assembly to the International Law Commission.
“…Because if all it took is not showing up for there to be no ability for the tribunal to issue a judgment, the whole system will fall apart,” he argued.
Professor Murphy was reacting to a query on the consequences of default, an apparent reference to the case filed by the Philippines, and China’s refusal to participate.
Murphy’s statement finds basis under Article 9 of Annex VII of the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), which states that “absence of a party or failure of a party to defend its case shall not constitute a bar to the proceedings.”
In his presentation, Murphy laid down several trends on and prospects for the enforcement of international judicial and arbitral decisions.
One trend he cited is the proliferation of international courts and tribunals for inter-state dispute resolution.
Another is the good degree of compliance by states with the decisions of international courts and arbitral tribunals.
Professor Murphy further stressed that compliance proved to be “really strong although not perfect.”
“We do live in a world where a lot of people believe in the law,” he said. “Even if you don’t like the decision, the tendency is to be law-compliant and, therefore, to follow the decisions rendered.”
Arguing further that countries will benefit from abiding by arbitral decisions for land or maritime disputes, he added, “What the tribunal is giving you is certainty as to where the boundary is, and that has a lot of benefits, particularly if you want to explore natural resources or to sort out your relationship with another country.”
The event, titled “The Enforcement of International Judicial and Arbitral Decisions,” is the country’s contribution to draw greater attention to the subject of enforcement of judicial and arbitral decisions between states.
Legal experts from various Permanent Missions to the UN also actively participated in the discussions.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Libran N. Cabactulan, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN, underscored that the international community has become more reliant on the rule of law as a cornerstone of the peaceful settlement of disputes.
“More and more states are submitting their disputes to international tribunals to manifest their commitment to the maintenance of international peace and security. International law is the great equalizer,” Ambassador Cabactulan said.
A dilapidated Philippine Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre LT-57 in Second Thomas Shoal or (Ayungin Shoal) in the Spratly group of islands.