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Costa Rica submits case against Nicaragua to International Court of Justice

December 5, 2011

Costa Rica presented its case against Nicaragua to the International Court of Justice on Monday, denouncing its northern neighbor in a document titled the “True Activities of Nicaragua in the Border Area.”

The document outlines Costa Rica’s arguments against Nicaragua’s alleged violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as environmental damage, on the Isla Calero, located south of the Río San Juan, which forms the northern border between the countries.  

In Oct. 2010, a Nicaraguan dredge boat, operated by former guerrilla leader Edén Pastora, cut across a segment of the Isla Calero. Alleged damage to the land, an island claimed by both countries, caused an international dispute that was heard before the world court, located at The Hague, Netherlands, on March 8. The court ruled that both countries must evacuate the area and that only appointed environmental personnel could enter the zone.

In April, a delegation of members of the press, the Environment Ministry (MINAET) and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (RAMSAR) visited Isla Calero to inspect the environmental damage caused by the dredge. When the group arrived, they were met by dozens of Nicaraguan protesters. The protesters, who were members of the Sandinista Youth movement, stood on the disputed parcel of land, waived signs and taunted the group in direct violation of the ruling.

“The Costa Rican argument is very solid, provides extensive technical detail of the environmental damage and contains irrefutable evidence about the territorial rights of Costa Rica,” said Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo in a statement Monday. “I think the court will be convinced that Costa Rica’s position is solid and valid in the face of the inexplicable actions of Nicaragua.”

The presentation of Costa Rica’s argument to the Court comes at a time when tensions again are elevated along the Río San Juan. Last week, Manuel Coronel Kautz, Nicaragua’s foreign vice minister, addressed a formal complaint to Castillo concerning Costa Rica’s construction of a 120-kilometer road south of the river. Coronel wrote that Costa Rica is “causing environmental damage” and “destroying the flora and fauna” in the river region. He asked for an immediate halt to the project. 

Castillo deemed the complaint to be a political ploy to distract the Nicaraguan public from the alleged fraud that categorized President Daniel Ortega’s re-election on Nov. 6.

Nicaragua’s response to the world court must be submitted by Aug. 6, 2012.

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