Government has announced it will “carefully consider” the order from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for the release of the Argentine Naval Ship, ARA Libertad.
According to a statement signed by Ambassador Chris Kpodo, Deputy Minister Foreign Affairs, Ghana was going to make the decision based on the requirements of the nation’s Constitution and the country’s international obligations.
The arrest of the ARA Libertad arises from a series of cases brought by NML Capital (an investment company incorporated in the Cayman Islands) against Argentina in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 2006 the US District Court entered a judgment in favor of NML in the amount of US $284,184,632.20.
The Argentinean training vessel ARA Libertad arrived in Port Tema on 1 October 2012 on an official goodwill visit to Ghana. On 2 October 2012 NML Capital commenced enforcement proceedings at the Ghanaian High Court to obtain satisfaction of the debt owed to it pursuant to the 2006 judgment of the US District Court.
As a result, the High Court sitting in Accra made an Order detaining the ARA Libertad. Argentina has appealed against this decision and the Ghanaian Court of Appeal is to hear the appeal.
On 29 October 2012 Argentina submitted a request for Arbitration under Annex VII on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea seeking the release of the training vessel.
Prior to the establishments of the Arbitral Tribunal, on 14 November 2012, Argentina filed a request for the prescription of provisional measures to the International Tribunal for the Law of Sea in Hamburg.
Argentina requested that the Tribunal order “that Ghana unconditionally enables the Argentina warship Frigate ARA Libertad to leave the Tema port and the jurisdictional waters of Ghana, and be resupplied to that end.”
Ghana submitted its written response on 28 November 2012, inviting ITLOS to reject Argentina’s request on the basis that the Annex VII Tribunal lacks jurisdiction over the dispute and that the requirements for provisional measures are not met in this case. Oral hearings took place in Hamburg on 29 and 30 November 2012.
Below is a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Government of Ghana has noted the unanimous decision by the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea in Hamburg today, 15 December, 2012 to the effect that Ghana shall forthwith and unconditionally release the Argentine frigate ARA Libertad and shall ensure that the ARA Libertad Commander and crew are able to leave the Port of Tema and the maritime areas of jurisdiction of Ghana and the frigate resupplied to that end.
The Government of Ghana has taken careful note of the Tribunal’s Order.
It is pertinent to recall that the arrest of the Argentine vessel arises from a dispute between Argentina and a private foreign company. The Government of Ghana is not a party to that dispute.
The Ghana High Court decision to detain the ARA Libertad placed the Government of Ghana in a very delicate situation on the account of the strong and positive relations we enjoy with Argentina. The Government of Ghana has always maintained that it does not consider itself to be in dispute with Argentina.
Ghana cherishes its democratic credentials with a democratically elected government firmly committed to the rule of law and utmost respect for the separation of powers. It is for this reason that the Government of Ghana was bound to respect the decision of the High Court in Accra to detain the ARA Libertad. Under the terms of Ghana’s Constitution the executive branch of Government must have regard to the independence of the Ghanaian judiciary. Ghana also respects international obligations on the rule of law including the requirements to guarantee the independence of the judiciary.
However, inasmuch as we are firmly committed to the rule of law and our own Constitution, we are also firmly committed to our international obligations. The Government of Ghana will carefully consider the Tribunal’s Order with a view to ensuring that it is given effect, having regard to the requirements of the Constitution and the country’s international obligations.
It is regrettable that this matter has come to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (“ITLOS”).
The Government of Ghana reiterates that all possible measures have been taken to preserve the health and safety of the 44 sailors on board the vessel. The Ports and Harbours Authority is providing the Argentine sailors access to all necessary facilities at the Port of Tema. The sailors themselves are not in detention and are free to go from the vessel as they please.
By: Philip Kofi Ashon/citifmonline.com/Ghana