Australia brought a complaint [materials] against Japan in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Monday for its whaling practices in the Antarctic. Australia initiated proceedings [JURIST report] in May 2010, and oral arguments are scheduled to begin in May 2012. Australia contends that Japan is in violation of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling [text, PDF] by not meeting its "good faith" obligation to halt the commercial killing of whales. Japan has defended the practice as scientific research [TIME report] because they collect data on the whale's age, diet and birthing rate, before packaging and selling the meat. Commercial whaling has been banned by the International Whaling Commission [official website] since 1986. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan [official website, in Japanese] stated that he was not concerned [The Australian] about the suit and that it would not affect Japan's relations with Australia.
Japan's whaling practices have sparked international controversy. In July, a Japanese court convicted anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune on charges of assault, trespass, destruction of property, illegal possession of a weapon and obstruction of business for boarding a Japanese whaling vessel [JURIST reports] as part of an anti-whaling protest in January 2010. Berthune, who called the charges "bogus," was extradited to New Zealand, and he will not serve prison time unless he returns to Japan. Last year's annual hunt was ended prematurely due to protests from the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society [advocacy website; press release].