Japan has killed over 3,600 minke whales in an internationally protected sanctuary near the Antarctic since 2005 as part of a "research program" which the International Court of Justice at The Hague on Monday deemed was just a pretext.
The ruling issued by Judge Tomka of Slovakia ordered Japan to "revoke all whaling permits" immediately and not issue any new ones because the "permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking, and treating of whales . . . are not 'for purposes of scientific research.'" Upon hearing the ruling, an anonymous court lawyer told The New York Times
, "I rarely heard such an unequivocal, strong ruling at this court."
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The case against Japan was brought by Australia in 2010, and accused the country of exploiting a loophole in a 1986 moratorium established by the International Whaling Commission.
"As a state that respects the rule of law . . . and as a responsible member of the global community, Japan will abide by the ruling of the court," Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Noriyuki Shikata told reporters at The Associated Press
. He added that the country "regrets and is deeply disappointed" by the decision.
Although many were overjoyed with the ruling, it isn't likely to put an end to whaling. Both Norway and Iceland have continually rejected the 1986 worldwide moratorium over the years, and Japan has a second, smaller whaling operation in the northern Pacific. That program may also come under fire after the new ruling, as it too claims to be for scientific purposes.
Still, Australian environment minister Peter Garrett was optimistic about the decision.
"I'm absolutely over the moon, for all those people who wanted to see the charade of scientific whaling cease once and for all. I think [this] means without any shadow of a doubt that we won't see the taking of whales in the Southern Ocean in the name of science," he told Australian radio.
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