- Title: GERMANY/FILE: Argentina asks UN court to order Ghana to release naval ship
- Date: 29th November 2012
- Summary: HAMBURG, GERMANY (NOVEMBER 29, 2012) (REUTERS) VARIOUS EXTERIORS OF UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE LAW OF THE SEA (ITLOS) VARIOUS OF LAWYERS FOR GHANA STANDING IN LOBBY ROW OF FLAGS LAWYERS SHAKING EACH OTHER'S HANDS AHEAD OF HEARING AUDIENCE SEATED LAWYERS FOR GHANA DELEGATION IN DISCUSSION ITLOS PRESIDENT SHUNJI YANAI OF JAPAN AND JUDGES ENTERING COURT ROOM VARIOUS OF ITLOS PRESIDENT HEAD OF ARGENTINA'S DELEGATION, SUSANA RUIZ CERUTTI SEEN ON MONITOR, READING OUT STATEMENT BACK OF CERUTTI SPEAKING ITLOS PRESIDENT LISTENING GHANA DELEGATION LISTENING BACK OF CERUTTI SPEAKING VARIOUS OF PHOTO OF NAVAL VESSEL "ARA LIBERTAD" ON COMPUTER SCREEN ITLOS JUDGE RUEDIGER WOLFRUM OF GERMANY SEATED (ON RIGHT), LISTENING WITH HEAD PHONES ITLOS LOGO ON WALL (SOUNDBITE) (English) ITLOS JUDGE, RUEDIGER WOLFRUM, SAYING: "Both sides will argue, Argentina first, (that) if the vessel is not released, there will be irreparable damage for Argentina. And Ghana will argue -- they will do so this afternoon -- that there is no urgency and that whether the vessel is in Ghana or not does not make any difference for Argentina." WIDE OF WOLFRUM BEING INTERVIEWED (SOUNDBITE) (English) ITLOS JUDGE, RUEDIGER WOLFRUM, SAYING: "We will listen to both sides, we'll look into the facts, we'll look into the exchange of notes so far and on that very basis -- we'll also look into the jurisprudence from the International Court of Justice and our own jurisprudence -- and on that very basis we'll decide whether there is urgency, or to put it in more procedural terms, whether the applicant, in this case Argentina, has made a plausible clause for urgency." REPORTER'S NOTEPAD (SOUNDBITE) (English) ITLOS JUDGE, RUEDIGER WOLFRUM, SAYING: "Ships which are not used in salt water are said to deteriorate very quickly. I have some naval experience and I can testify to that. Salt water is very aggressive."
- Embargoed: 14th December 2012 12:00
- Location: Germany
- Country: Germany
- Topics: Legal System,International Relations,Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9ND7XEHC511TB9I7CHKQPAOG6
- Story Text: Argentina asks a United Nations court to order the immediate release of its warship "ARA Libertad" being held in Ghana under a court order brought by holders of defaulted Argentine bonds.
An Argentinian warship held in Ghana since the beginning of October under a court order brought by holders of defaulted Argentine bonds must be released immediately, the South American country told a United Nations court on Thursday (November 29).
The West African nation detained the frigate ARA Libertad, an Argentinian training vessel, in its port of Tema on Oct. 2 at the request of hedge fund NML Capital Ltd, which says Argentina owes it $300 million on bonds in default since 2002.
Susana Ruiz Cerutti, head of an Argentinian delegation, told the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) that warships have immunity under international maritime law and it is a "mystery" why Ghana has not allowed the ship to leave.
Cerutti said the tribunal should order the ship's release as the United Nations convention on the law of the sea gives warships immunity from civil actions.
Creditors including NML have won several billion dollars in damages over Argentina's default in U.S. courts, but they have largely been unable to collect because most Argentine assets are protected by sovereign immunity laws.
"Because a 'vulture fund' has chosen the frigate to be the subject of proceedings does not absolve Ghana of its international obligations," Ruiz Cerutti said.
Argentina refers to funds like NML as "vulture funds" because they buy distressed or defaulted bonds and then sue in international courts to get paid in full.
The convention does not define warships as carrying weapons and the Libertad is an unarmed naval training vessel, she said.
Judge Ruediger Wolfrum of Germany told reporters that "we'll decide whether there is urgency, or to put it in more procedural terms, whether the applicant, in this case Argentina, has made a plausible clause for urgency."
A skeleton crew of 45 sailors remains on board the Libertad after the evacuation of about 300 crewmen.
Judge Wolfrum added that stationary ships "in salt water are said to deteriorate very quickly. I have some naval experience and I can testify to that. Salt water is very aggressive."
The ship was visiting Ghana under Argentina's programme to boost cooperation and friendship in the southern hemisphere and was seized in a "brutal manner", according to the head of the Argentinian delegation.
Ghana had also not replied to repeated Argentine government communications.
Ghana will start its submission to the court later on Thursday. A court spokeswoman said no date had been set for a judgement. But a decision would be expected within a month of the application being filed.
Argentina filed its formal complaint on November 14.
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