Australia to comply with East Timor court orders

The International Court of Justice has ruled documents siezed from East Timor by Australia cannot be used in a arbitration case over marine resources

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 11:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 6:08pm

Australia will comply with an International Court of Justice ruling banning it from using documents the government seized from a lawyer working for East Timor in an arbitration case over a multibillion-dollar oil and gas deal between the countries, the attorney general said on Tuesday.

The United Nations’ highest court in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Monday ordered Canberra not to “interfere in any way in communications” between East Timor and its legal advisers in the arbitration or future negotiations on a maritime boundary between resources-rich Australia and its tiny, impoverished northern neighbour.

But Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis said in a statement that his government “is pleased” with the court’s refusal of East Timor’s request that the documents be handed back.

“This is a good outcome for Australia,” said Brandis, adding that the court orders would be complied with.

Australian agents in December raided the Canberra office of a legal adviser to East Timor and seized documents and data. That followed claims by a former Australian spy that his country bugged the East Timorese government ahead of negotiations on the Timor Sea Treaty that carves up revenue from oil and gas under the sea between the countries.

East Timor wants to renegotiate the treaty, arguing the alleged bugging made it invalid.

It went to the world court arguing the seizure was illegal. Monday’s orders did not address that claim, which will be litigated later.