Monday, 17 January 2011

Costa Rica and Nicaragua present border cases at ICJ

The Costa Rican delegation at the ICJ

Costa Rica and Nicaragua have made their opening arguments regarding their border dispute over the San Juan River to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

The hearings started last Tuesday, 11th January, when Costa Rica accused Nicaragua of engangering the stability and peace between the two countries and asked the court to rule that Nicaragua must remove their troops from their 'illegitimate' occupation of the Isla Calero. The Costa Rican contingent, headed by foreign minister Rene Castro, also asked the court to rule that Nicaragua must cease the 'imminent and irreparable environmental damage' being caused by Nicaragua in the border region.

Nicaragua responded in the afternoon of the 11th, arguing that Costa Rica 'creates a dispute' every time Nicaragua begins work on the San Juan River. Nicaragua's ambassador to the Netherlands and main representative at the hearing, Carlos Arguello, also attempted to discredit the claims that Nicaragua 'invaded' Costa Rican territory by arguing that the dispute was caused by a lack of well-defined borders.

This is not the first dispute between the Latin American neighbours over the San Juan River. In 2009 the ICJ ruled that while the San Juan River was Nicaraguan territory, with the bank constituting the border, Costa Rica had the right to free navigation.

Both sides are claiming they have the upper hand in the dispute. Foreign minister Castro said on Tuesday that he was feeling very confident. “There has been irrefutable damage done to Costa Rican territory and we feel the court has heard our argument. Our presentation is very consistent, as it has been since this issue began.”

Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla echoed Castro's words. Speaking to the press on Tuesday afternoon, she said, “We are very pleased with the results of the proceedings this morning and the case presented by Costa Rica at The Hague.”

“The more the world knows about this situation, the more the world will favor Costa Rica,” she added.

Castro has remained in Europe, and is said to be making the rounds of a number of European cities to garner support for Costa Rica's position.

The Nicaraguans, however, are feeling similarly confident. Well-known Nicaraguan conservationist and presidential advisor Jaime Incer said Cost Rica was surprised by the 'brilliant' presentation made by Arguello.

“The arguments presented by Nicaragua were overwhelming and well presented and made Costa Rica's foreign minister doubt his own belligerent position,” the Tico Times reported Incer as saying.

“I think that in the first round, Nicaragua refuted Costa Rica's phantom arguments, and that gives us lots of hope.”

Nicaraguan representative Arguello has been quoted as saying he was sure that the Court would not approve the provisional measures requested by Costa Rica, and noted that Costa Rica itself was not positive about it.

Hearings took place from Tuesday January 11th to Thursday January 13th. The court is now deliberating, and a decision is expected sometime this week.

For more information on the dispute, see the Menas Borders website, here.

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