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Image of the Peace Palace in The Hague by E Buxton

A ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has addressed a dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia over maritime borders which has lasted for many decades.

The ICJ has ruled that Colombia must “immediately cease” patrolling and trying to control fishing activities and maritime research in parts of the western Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua which are recognised as the EEZ of Nicaragua.

Colombia has denied the accusations, saying its presence in the region was “due to other imperatives”, including the fight against drug trafficking and international maritime rescue.

The ruling comes after a 2012 ICJ decision when the court ruled that Nicaragua’s maritime borders included a large area of disputed Caribbean Sea territory extending 200 nautical miles (370km or 230 miles) from its coastline.

Following that ruling, Colombia said it would no longer recognise the court’s jurisdiction on border disputes and Nicaragua logged a new case accusing Colombia of ignoring the ruling.

 On the ruling, presiding Judge Joan Donoghue said:

“The court (…) finds that by interfering with fishing and marine scientific research activities of Nicaraguan flagged or Nicaraguan licensed vessels and with the operations on Nicaraguan naval vessels in the republic of Nicaragua’s exclusive economic zone and by purporting to enforce conservation measures in that zone, the republic of Colombia has violated the republic of Nicaragua’s sovereign rights and jurisdictions.”

The Nicaraguan government welcomed the verdict, saying it confirmed that Colombia had "violated the jurisdiction and sovereign rights" of Nicaragua.

Speaking after the judgement, Colombia's representative, Carlos Gustavo Arrieta Padilla, said he still believed "the ruling is mainly in favour of Colombia". The ICJ "did not ask us to cease our presence in Nicaraguan waters... They never ordered us to leave... the area," Arrieta said.

"The court has maintained the possibility of the Colombian navy being there and doing operations in the fight against organised crime in the area," he concluded.



Image courtesy of IBRU and E Buxton