Apparently the United States is not the only country accused of “spying” on other nations with the ICJ recently ordering Australia to cease its spying on East Timor. The small nation located in the Timor Sea right in between Australia and Asia won this landmark decision concerning over $40 billion of oil and gas reserves within the Timor Sea.
This decision is binding on both Australia and East Timor as they are both members of the ICJ. This decision is groundbreaking because it is the first time that the court has imposed restrictions on the spy agencies of one of the superpowers such as the intelligence community of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. This is fundamental at a time when the international community has expressed concern about over-reach by Western intelligence agencies.
The Court found that Australia was not obligation to turn-over to East Timor the documents and electronic materials that it has collected but it was required to keep the documents under lock and key until further notice. This is contrary to the request of East Timor who longed for the documents to be returned and also requested a list of all parties that here given or had access to the privileged documents.
The Court accepted Australia’s claim that the documents were only collected for Australia’s national security and it would not be used for any other purposes. However, the Court did find that other than for national security purposes, there was “still a risk of release of the material which would be highly prejudicial.” The ICJ order noted that Australia had to ensure that the content of the secret material “is not in any or at any time used… to the disadvantage” of East Timor.
Do you think that the ICJ made the right call? Is this ruling going to change the way spying is perceived in the international community? Will this change the way states act towards each other?