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The Yushin Maru catcher ship of the Japanese whaling fleet injures a whale with its first harpoon attempt, and takes a further three harpoon shots before finally killing the badly injured fleeing whale. Finally they drowned the mammal beneath the harpooon deck of the ship to kill it.  Southern Ocean.  07.01.2006

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Japanese 'Scientific' whaling on trial

Australia, a leading opponent of Japan’s annual so-called “scientific” hunts has brought a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, hoping that the court will outlaw the hunts at the end of a long awaited case which started on Wednesday 26th June.

The court, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will hold public hearings in the case concerning Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) from Wednesday 26 June to Tuesday 16 July 2013, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court.

The case opens with Australia’s oral evidence. Australia’s Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said he would appear before the court in the four-week hearings.

Deputy Foreign Minister, Koji Tsuruoka, a career lawyer-diplomat, has been appointed to lead the Japanese delegation at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

You can watch highlights from the proceedings on the United Nations web tv site. Watch Part 1 and Part 2.

Whilst the arguments will be made public at the opening of the case, it’s believed that Japan will initially challenge the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, as well as seeking to reject the Australian legal argument that the hunt contravenes the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW).

ClientEarth, with whom WDC has a cooperative programme on whale and dolphin legal issues hopes, ‘that this case will develop clear guidance on how agreements such as 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity should be applied by signatories to such agreements vis-a-vis the Whaling Convention’.

WDC believes that the issue at hand cannot be simply judged on the text of the 1946 ICRW, but must be interpreted in the light of the evolving conservation mission of the IWC and post 1946 developments in international law and our increased understanding of the complexities of whale social structures and culture.

You can follow WDC analysis and commentary on the hearings on our blogs.

The hearings will subsequently also be available as a recorded webcast (VOD) on the United Nations Web TV website 

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945 and began its activities in April 1946. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).

The Court has a twofold role: first, to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States (its judgments have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned); and, second, to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized United Nations organs and agencies of the system.

The Court is composed of 15 judges elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations. 

[View the story “Japan’s whaling on trial” on Storify]