What Construction?!

On September, 24, 2013, the Republic of Costa Rica filed a “Request for the Indication of New Provisional Measures” in the case concerning Certain Activities carried out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua), with the ICJ.

In the existing Order of 8 March 2011, the Court requested that, “the Parties refrain from sending to, or maintaining in the disputed territory, including the caño (“channel”), any personnel, whether civilian, police or security; authorizes Costa Rica, in certain specific circumstances, to dispatch civilian personnel there charged with the protection of the environment; and calls on the Parties not to aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.”

This recent dispute stems from Costa Rica’s claim that Nicaragua’s activities have been contrary to the previous agreement. Costa Rica claims are based on (i) Nicaragua’s continued presence on Costa Rica’s territory; (ii) the recent and ongoing construction by Nicaragua of two new artificial channels (or caños) in the “disputed territory” which is the subject of the Court’s Order of 8 March 2011 on provisional measures; and (iii) related dredging and dumping activities by Nicaragua affecting that territory and detrimentally impacting upon its ecology.

The Parties had previously requested the Court to modify its Order of 8 March 2011, and that the Court declined those requests by an Order of 16 July 2013. Costa Rica is requesting an “independent” Order “based on new facts.” It contends that, since the Order of 16 July 2013, it has “found out about new and grave activities by Nicaragua in the disputed territory”. Costa Rica seeks to protect “its rights to sovereignty, to territorial integrity and to non-interference with its lands and environmentally protected areas”.

Costa Rica contends that the construction of these “new channels”, which it states are located on the right bank of the San Juan River and close to the mouth of that river, commenced between June and September 2013; that it “first became aware of potential activity in the disputed territory at the end of August [2013]”; and that it obtained satellite images on 13 September 2013 confirming the construction of these two new artificial caños. Costa Rica also adds that it immediately protested to Nicaragua but, Nicaragua refused to cease construction, even going so far as to deny the construction altogether.

In its request, Costa Rica further contends that “through its construction and ongoing dredging of the caños, Nicaragua is attempting unilaterally to modify, to its own benefit, the location and configuration of [the San Juan] River, the right bank of which constitutes a valid, agreed and settled international boundary”. Costa Rica states that if the court does not decide this matter quickly, Costa Rica, which is unable to exercise its territorial sovereignty, will only receive an area geographically altered and seriously damaged.

What should be the remedy for Costa Rica if the dredging construction does alter or seriously damage the configuration of the San Juan River? What should be the ramifications for Nicaragua for dredging and acting contrary to the pre-existing order between the Parties? Is there any way to “fix” what has already been done?

Source: ICJ Press Room

Picture: Wikipedia

One comment

  1. It always seems to be a problem when two nations share a valuable form of economic resource such as the San Juan River. Nonetheless, Nicaragua seems to be in the wrong here. After the order of March 8 2011, when the court told both countries to stay away from the disputed area, Nicaragua should have listened. The dredging that the Nicaraguans are doing around the disputed area will have a significant negative impact on Costa Rica. The navigability of the San Juan river is at jeopardy and this will have a tremendous negative impact on the economies of both countries. I think that the best immediate solution would be for the ICJ to grant the request of the Costa Rican government to restrain the Nicaraguans from further dredging. There should also be heavy fines imposed on Nicaragua for violation of court orders. The territorial disputes between these two countries have been ongoing for years and Nicaragua’a actions are just adding more fuel to the fire.

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