The International Court of Justice, the highest court of the United Nations, ruled in favor of Qatar in a quarrel opposing the country to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. The neighboring countries that imposed a full blockade on Qatar since 2017 will now be judged by the International Civil Aviation Authority Council.
The ICJ judges unanimously rejected the appeal from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt against a decision of the ICAO on the matter in 2018. Back then, the majority of ICAO Member States voted in favor of addressing Qatar’s complaints. The blockading countries submitted an objection, stating that the ICAO had no jurisdiction in the matter.
The Qatari Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim Saif Ahmed al-Soulaiti welcomed the decision of the ICJ in a press release. “We are confident that the ICAO will ultimately find these actions unlawful,” Al Sulaiti said, adding “this is the latest in a series of rulings that expose the Blockading Countries’ continued disregard for international law and due process. Step by step their arguments are being dismantled, and Qatar’s position vindicated.”
In June 2017, Qatar was accused by the three other Gulf countries as well as Egypt of supporting terrorism. Consequently, its national airline Qatar Airways was blocked from 18 airports in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt, and the planes of the company were forbidden to use the airspace of those countries. Commercial and maritime routes were cut and land borders were also closed. The blockade has put a strain on the flag carrier. Qatar Airways lost many profitable routes as it was forced to avoid the airspace of the neighboring countries. In 2019, it reported a net loss of $639 million.
Now that the jurisdiction of the ICAO has been established and that the complaints of Qatar have been taken into account, both parties will be able to defend their case. The United Arab Emirates already commented on the news, saying they would “now present their legal action to ICAO to defend their right to close their airspace to Qatari planes.”