Friday, 5 July 2013
ICJ files initial dates for Bolivia-Chile dispute
The ICJ this week fixed time-limits for the filing of initial pleadings in the case concerning 'Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean' between Bolivia and Chile. The Plurinational State of Bolivia, who initiated proceedings, must file a Memorial by 17 April 2014, and the Republic of Bolivia must follow this pleading by filing its Counter-Memorial by 18 February 2015. The filing of Memorials and Counter-Memorials is standard practise in the Hague, to outline the initial positions of both parties, however, no decision has been made by the court regarding what subsequent procedures may follow.
On 24 April Bolivia instituted proceedings in the ICJ against Chile to reclaim sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean: territory that it lost in the 19thcentury War of the Pacific. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has responded by rejecting talks, asking the ICJ to dismiss Bolivia's application, as he believes it threatens to open a “Pandora's Box” of international border disputes.
The 400km strip of coastal territory was annexed by Chile in the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, following the five-year conflict over mining rights. Hostilities between the neighbours have lingered since then, with repeated attempts to renegotiate the border failing. Bolivia, which still maintains a small navy and celebrates the Day of the Sea each year to honour its once substantial maritime territory, maintains that the 1904 Treaty is void, as it was signed under coercion from Chile. Authorities in Santiago however remain steadfast in opposing Bolivia's claim, with diplomatic ties not being re-established since they were broken off in 1978.