Spanish Constitutional Court rejects Sulu heirs’ appeal
KOTA KINABALU — The Spanish Constitutional Court has thrown out an appeal by the self-claimed heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate to reinstate controversial Dr. Gonzalo Stampa as an arbitrator.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said a confirmation was received by the Spanish Constitutional Court which rejected the appeal by the group against the June 2021 Madrid’s court annulment of Stampa as arbitrator.
Describing it as another significant victory for Malaysia against the self-claimed heirs, Azalina said the Spanish Court’s annulment of Stampa’s appointment as arbitrator is final and reaffirms Malaysia’s position on the arbitration case.
On June 29, 2021, the High Court of Justice of Madrid (HCJM) issued a decision that annulled the judicial appointment of Stampa to act as an arbitrator.
Stampa was initially appointed arbitrator in 2019 by the HCJM without Malaysia being involved in the case.
As a result of this decision, the HCJM retroactively invalidated Stampa’s appointment and nullified all his actions as a purported arbitrator, including the alleged “preliminary award” he had rendered in Madrid.
The decision of the HCJM was final, binding and directly enforceable and could only be subject to an extraordinary constitutional appeal before the Spanish Constitutional Court if exceptional circumstances were met.
In fact, Azalina said in a statement today (Feb 2), the claimants complied with the annulment decision of the HCJM and took steps to appoint a different arbitrator.
The self-claimed Sulu claimants recognized that Stampa was not an arbitrator.
On Nov 5, 2021, the claimants filed a constitutional appeal seeking that the June 29, 2021 HCJM decision to annul Stampa be overturned.
This constitutional appeal did not say the effects of the annulment decision and as such, his Stampa’s termination was already final and binding since a court decision on June 29, 2021, Azalina said.
Azalina said that the Spanish Constitutional Court had rejected the constitutional appeal filed by the Sulu claimants because they had withdrawn their claim to appoint an arbitrator following the annulment decision.
“As a result, they had voluntarily abandoned the proceedings which served as the basis for their constitutional appeal,” Azalina said.
“This decision confirms the legal position that Malaysia has asserted since the dispute began, effectively ending the claimants’ judicial strategy in Spain.
“As a result of the annulment of Stampa’s judicial appointment in Spain, he lacked the authority to act as an arbitrator and should have immediately put an end to the purported arbitration proceedings.
“Instead, and in open defiance of the June 29, 2021 decision of the HCJM (the same court that had initially appointed him as an arbitrator), Stampa nevertheless chose to deliver an illegal and purported “final award” granting the claimants US$14.92bil in compensation for the territory of Sabah,” Azalina said.
She said Malaysia has subsequently taken legal steps to invalidate Stampa’s two purported awards.
Azalina said the French courts have stayed the enforcement of the purported final award rendered by Stampa in France, pending the judicial outcome of Malaysia’s action to set it aside on the basis that enforcement may likely threaten Malaysia’s sovereignty over the territory of Sabah.
Furthermore, Azalina said that the Luxembourg courts had recently set aside the attachment obtained by the claimants on the basis of Stampa’s two purported awards.
“The Spanish courts have now further confirmed the annulment of Stampa’s unlawful appointment as an arbitrator, finding that he never had any legal authority to act in that capacity or to issue any awards and that therefore, they are null and void,” she said.
Azalina said that the Spanish Constitutional Court decision vindicates the government’s policy to vigorously defend Malaysia in every court and forum, exercising all its powers, rights and resources to ensure that Malaysia’s interests and sovereignty are protected at all times.
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