Columbia to ICJ: We’re Not Listening

President Juan Santos


Note: Pace Law School recognizes the importance of international law by offering a specialization certificate of international law as well as this law review and blog. I think it’s important for us to highlight when one of Pace’s legal scholars and professors comments on international topics.

Columbia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the country would no longer recognize the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in territorial disputes. This stems from a November 19th ICJ decision that affirmed Columbia’s sovereignty over a set of islands off Nicaragua but stated some of the waters fall under Nicaraguan control. Columbia’s outrage comes from the fact that the waters may contain potential and valuable oil and gas deposits. Santos had put a stop to exploratory drilling, but, following the ruling, Nicaragua is going to commence drilling.

Santos announced that Columbia is going to remove themselves from a 1948 treaty entitled the Pact of Bogota, a treaty that recognizes the World Court’s jurisdiction to resolve international disputes in general not specifically territorial disputes. He maintains that states should decide their own borders. This of course does not take into account what happens or who decides when those borders enter in dispute.

Professor Brotmann, international law professor at Pace, stated: “In my opinion, although he may say that they no longer are going to recognize the jurisdiction of the court, it doesn’t really matter…Countries can’t really pick and choose what parts of a treaty that they’ve already ratified they want to be held to.” The article further maintains that certainly some of Columbia’s laws and obligations take into account that treaty.

What this really means is that even though they may not want to recognize the jurisdiction of the international legal bodies in territorial disputes specifically, they will still be bound by the World Court because it is customary international law  and practice that they are final arbiter.

Should a nation be able to pick and choose which parts of treaties they abide by?

If a nation is truly sovereign, and already voluntarily entered a treaty,  should they be able to voluntarily leave that treaty?

What will Columbia do going forward?

Sources: The Washington Post

Photo Source: UpStream Media

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