Top UN court asked to rule in Qatari air blockade row

Apex court urged to quash decision UN's civil aviation body handed down in Qatar's favour

THE HAGUE • The bitter fight between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours have taken a twist as three Middle Eastern countries asked the United Nations' top court to resolve a dispute with Doha over sovereign airspace.

Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to quash a decision in Qatar's favour handed down by the UN's global civil aviation body.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) last week ruled it had the jurisdiction to determine a dispute brought by Qatar, accusing its neighbours of violating an agreement that regulates the free passage of passenger planes through foreign airspace.

The three countries now want the Hague-based court to nullify ICAO's ruling, saying its decision was "manifestly flawed and in violation of fundamental principles of due process and the right to be heard". "The ICAO council is not competent to adjudicate", the trio said in papers filed before the ICJ. They sought a declaration that ICAO's decision is "null and void and without effect".

Thursday's filing is the latest salvo in the increasingly rancorous battle between Doha and its Gulf neighbours which erupted a year ago. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and other allies severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing terrorism and Iran, and imposed punitive measures, including banning Qatari planes from their airspace.

In other measures, Qatar's only land border with Saudi Arabia was closed and the Gulf states ordered Qataris to leave within 14 days, as well as calling home their own citizens.

Doha last month dragged the UAE to the ICJ, accusing Abu Dhabi of human rights "violations" and discrimination against Qataris, saying it was fostering a "climate of fear" among its citizens.

Abu Dhabi in return called on Qatar to stop "supporting terrorist groups and individuals", even as it strongly denied the human rights abuse claims.

A ruling in that case could still take a few weeks or even months.

The ICJ - the UN's highest legal body - was set up in 1946 to rule in disputes involving states, but it can also give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by other UN organs and specialised agencies.

All diplomatic efforts have so far proved fruitless in resolving the crisis, which has rendered the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council practically obsolete.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2018, with the headline 'Top UN court asked to rule in Qatari air blockade row'. Print Edition | Subscribe