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Mr. Sean D. Murphy

Mr. Sean D. Murphy
Professor of International Law
George Washington University Law School
Member of the International Law Commission

Biography Biography in PDF format

Law of the Sea
Regime of Islands
International Law Relating to Islands
Part I
Islands, Rocks, and Low-Tide Elevations
Video | Audio
(47 minutes)

Part II
Methods for Securing Sovereignty over an Island 
Video | Audio
(44 minutes)

Part III
Islands in relation to Maritime Zones
Video | Audio
(48 minutes)

Part IV
Effects of Islands on Maritime Boundary Delimitation
Video | Audio
(44 minutes)
Law of the Sea
Regime of Islands
Presentation PDF document
Islands, Rocks, and Low-Tide Elevations
A. Legal Instruments

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Montego Bay, 10 December 1982, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1833, p. 3.

B. Jurisprudence

International Court Justice, North Sea Continental Shelf, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1969, p. 3.

International Court of Justice, Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary in the Gulf of Maine Area, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1984, p. 246.

International Court of Justice, Continental Shelf (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya v. Malta), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1985, p. 13.

International Court Justice, Application for Revision and Interpretation of the Judgment of 24 February 1982 in the Case concerning the Continental Shelf (Tunisia/Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) (Tunisia v. Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1985, p. 192.

Norwegian Supreme Court, Public Prosecutor v. Haraldsson et al., Judgment of 7 May 1996, Rt-1996-624.

International Court of Justice, Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain (Qatar v. Bahrain), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2001, p. 4.

International Court of Justice, Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2009, p. 61.

International Court of Justice, Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2012, p. 624.

Permanent Court of Arbitration, The South China Sea Arbitration (The Republic of Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China), Award of 12 July 2016, PCA Case N° 2013-19.

C. Documents

Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, Summary records of meetings of the Second Committee, 40th meeting, Official Records, Volume II (A/CONF.62/C.2/SR.40).

Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, Summary records of meetings of the Plenary, 135th meeting, Official Records, Volume XIV (A/CONF.62/SR.135), in particular, p. 21, para. 18.

D. Doctrine

J. Charney, “Rocks that Cannot Sustain Human Habitation”, American Journal of International Law, vol. 93, 1999, pp. 863-866.


Methods for Securing Sovereignty over an Island
A. Legal Instruments

Boundary Treaty between the Argentine Republic and the Republic of Chile, Buenos Aires, 23 July 1881, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 2384, p. 205.

Treaty of Peace between the United States and Spain, Paris, 10 December 1898 (Text of the Treaty available on the website of Yale Law School’s Avalon Project).

Treaty between the United States and Spain for the Cession to the United States of any and all Islands of the Philippine Archipelago lying outside of the Lines described in Article III of the Treaty of Peace of 10 December 1898, Washington, 7 November 1900, United States Department of State, Treaty Series 345.

Treaty Concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen, Paris, 9 February 1920, League of Nations, Treaty Series, vol. II, p. 7.

Treaty concerning Territorial Questions at issue between Colombia and Nicaragua, Managua, 24 March 1928, and Protocol of Exchange of Ratification, Managua, 5 May 1930, League of Nations, Treaty Series, vol. CV, p. 337.

General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, Paris, 27 August 1928, League of Nations, Treaty Series, vol. XCIV, p. 57.

Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice, San Francisco, 26 June 1945.

Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (General Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970).

Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Chile and Argentina, Vatican City, 29 November 1984, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1399, p. 103.

B. Jurisprudence

Arbitral Tribunal, Island of Palmas case (Netherlands, United States of America), Award of 4 April 1928, Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. II, p. 829.

Arbitral Tribunal, Clipperton Island Case (France v. Mexico), Award of 28 January 1931, Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. II, p. 1105 (full text only available in French).

Permanent Court of International Justice, Legal Status of Eastern Greenland (Denmark v. Norway), Judgment of 5 April 1933, Series A/B No. 53.

International Court of Justice, The Minquiers and Ecrelzos case (France/United Kingdom), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1953, p. 47.

Arbitral Tribunal, Dispute between Argentina and Chile concerning the Beagle Channel, Award of 18 February 1977, Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. XXI, p. 53.

International Court of Justice, Land, Island and Maritime Frontier Dispute (El Salvador/Honduras: Nicaragua intervening), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1992, p. 351.

Arbitral Tribunal, Territorial Sovereignty and Scope of the Dispute (Eritrea and Yemen), Award of 9 October 1998, Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. XXII, p. 209.

International Court of Justice, Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain, Merits, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2001, p. 40.

International Court of Justice, Territorial and Maritime Dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Honduras), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2007, p. 659.

International Court of Justice, Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia/Singapore), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2008, p. 12.

International Court of Justice, Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2012, p. 624.


Islands in relation to Maritime Zones
A. Legal Instruments

Convention on the Territorial Sean and the Contiguous Zone, Geneva, 29 April 1958, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 516, p. 206.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Montego Bay, 10 December 1982, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1833, p. 3.

B. Jurisprudence
C. Doctrine

Y. Tanaka, The International Law of the Sea, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2002, in particular, p. 211.


Effects of Islands on Maritime Boundary Delimitation
A. Legal Instruments

Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice, San Francisco, 26 June 1945.

Treaty concerning Sovereignty and Maritime Boundaries in the Area between the Two Countries, including the Area Known as Torres Strait, and Related Matters, Sydney, 18 December 1978, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1429, p. 208.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Montego Bay, 10 December 1982, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1833, p. 3.

International Law Commission, Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, 2001.

B. Jurisprudence

International Court Justice, North Sea Continental Shelf, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1969, p. 3.

Arbitral Tribunal, Delimitation of the Continental Shelf between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the French Republic (United Kingdom, France), Award of 30 June 1977, Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. XVIII, p. 3.

Arbitral Tribunal, Delimitation of the Continental Shelf between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the French Republic (United Kingdom, France), Award of 14 March 1978, Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. XVIII, p. 130.

International Court of Justice, Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary in the Gulf of Maine Area, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1984, p. 246.

Arbitral Tribunal, Delimitation of Maritime Areas between Canada and France, Award of 10 June 1992, Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. XXI, p. 265.

International Court of Justice, Maritime Delimitation in the Area between Greenland and Jan Mayen, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1993, p. 38.

Arbitral Tribunal, Second Stage of the Proceedings between Eritrea and Yemen (Maritime Delimitation), Award of 17 December 1999, Reports of International Arbitral Awards, vol. XXII, p. 335.

International Court of Justice, Maritime Delimitation and Territorial Questions between Qatar and Bahrain (Qatar v. Bahrain), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2001, p. 40.

International Court of Justice, Territorial and Maritime Dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Honduras), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2007, p. 659.

International Court of Justice, Maritime Delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v. Ukraine), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2009, p. 61.

International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh/Myanmar), Judgment of 14 March 2012, ITLOS Reports 2012.

International Court of Justice, Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2012, p. 624.