Professor Murphy Argues Case for Macedonia Before International Court of Justice

March 21, 2011—Sean Murphy, Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law, in March appeared before the International Court of Justice in The Hague to argue on behalf of the Republic of Macedonia in a case against the Republic of Greece. Professor Murphy is part of a team of lawyers from Macedonia, France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom that prepared written pleadings for the Court and is now presenting Macedonia’s case at the oral hearing. Professor Murphy’s arguments were heard on March 21, 22, and 28.

“It’s a real honor to represent Macedonia in this proceeding, which relates Macedonia’s effort to secure membership in one of the most important institutions for peace and security in Europe—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” Professor Murphy said.

When Macedonia emerged as an independent State, Greece opposed use of the name “Macedonia,” asserting that it suggested a territorial claim to parts of northern Greece that fell within ancient Macedonia. Consequently, when Macedonia sought admission to the United Nations in 1993, a compromise was reached whereby Macedonia would be provisionally referred to within the United Nations as the “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” until such time as the difference over the name could be resolved. Further, in a 1995 bilateral treaty known as the “Interim Accord,” the two countries agreed that Greece would not object to Macedonia’s effort to join other international organizations, so long as it would be referred in those organizations by the provisional reference.

In the case before the Court, Macedonia claims that Greece, in 2007–2008, objected to Macedonia’s attempt to join NATO, even though Macedonia would have been referred in NATO by the provisional reference. Macedonia asks the Court to find that Greece violated the Interim Accord and to order Greece to withdraw immediately its objection. Greece contends that the Court has no jurisdiction over the case and that, in any event, Greece’s conduct was not an objection within the meaning of the Interim Accord and was justifiable as a reaction to violations by Macedonia of the Interim Accord.

Professor Murphy’s argument focused on the facts of Greece’s conduct in 2007–2008, why that conduct violated Article 11(1) of the Interim Accord, and why Greece’s arguments to the contrary are not sustainable. Transcripts, videos and photographs of the oral arguments, as well as the written pleadings, are available at the Court’s Web site:

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