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ICJ: Japan must halt whaling program

[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Monday that Japan cannot continue its annual whale hunt, finding that it is not being carried out for the scientific purposes the Japanese government had claimed. This 12-4 decision was the result of a suit brought against Japan by Australia, which hoped to end [AP report] the country's Antarctic whaling program. Australia argued that Japan is in violation of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling [text, PDF] by continuing to hunt whales despite a ban on commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission [official website]. ICJ President Judge Peter Tomka [official profile] stated that the large size of the number of whales the program claimed to need for research and the fact that those numbers were rarely reached made the court doubt that the whaling was being carried out for scientific purposes. The court thus concluded that permits granted by Japan for whaling were not "for purposes of scientific research" and ordered Japan to stop issuing such permits until the program has been changed.

This case has been ongoing since June 2010, when the Australian government filed a complaint [JURIST report] against Japan to seek an injunction against "scientific whaling" in the Southern Ocean. The complaint alleged that Japan had continued to pursue large-scale whaling under Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic ("JARPA II"), and had thus breached its "good faith" obligation to limit the killing of whales for commercial purposes to zero. Australia filed a complaint with the ICJ [JURIST report] against Japan for its whaling practices in May 2011. In November 2012 New Zealand announced [JURIST report] that it would support Australia in its battle against Japanese whaling practices. Commercial whaling has been banned by the International Whaling Commission since 1986. In June 2013 the ICJ began public hearings on the ongoing legal dispute.

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