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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

International Court of Justice agrees to hear Nicaragua-Colombia maritime dispute

(4 April 2016)

International judges at the UN's top tribunal have agreed to hear two maritime border disputes between Nicaragua and Colombia.

On 17th March, by 14 votes to two, the judges ruled that the ICJ "has jurisdiction... to adjudicate upon the dispute". Managua accuses Bogota of failing to comply with a 2012 ICJ order in which Colombia’s sovereignty over the San Andres and Providencia islands was affirmed, and Nicaragua’s maritime territory was expanded surrounding both islands.

A second case brought also by Nicaragua -which asks the ICJ to draw the "precise course" of the continental shelf between the two countries- has also been accepted.

Colombia argues that the court no longer has jurisdiction because Bogota withdrew from a 1948 treaty known as the Pact of Bogota. Under that treaty most countries of South and North America agreed to settle disputes between them through peaceful means and had conferred jurisdiction over such matters to the ICJ. Bogota argues instead that territorial and maritime borders should only be established through negotiations and bilateral treaties.

The ICJ judges maintained that the Pact of Bogota remained in force when Nicaragua filed its cases to the court in November 2013.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos rejected the ruling: "Our country respects the law, but requires respect for the law," he wrote in his tweet, calling on all Colombians to make "a strong and common front to protect our Caribbean sea."