Costa Rica and Nicaragua at ICJ

19 January 2011 by Pablo Gamez

Costa Rica faced Nicaragua last week at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, with the former demanding the withdrawal of Nicaraguan troops allegedly active on its territory. The border dispute has once again strained diplomatic relations between the two neighbours.

Before a board of 16 judges at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Costa Rican delegation denounced the “provocation” of its neighbour, while Nicaragua criticised San Jose for “initiating an international scandal” about “simple dredging work” in a tiny territory.

The two countries returned to The Hague less than two years after the ICJ ruling on their historic dispute over the sovereignty of the San Juan river, which delimits a part of their common border.

The San Juan river returns to centre stage in the current disagreement that began in October with the alleged invasion of the small river islands of Portillos and Calero by a group of Nicaraguan soldiers. The sovereignty of the islands, located in the Caribbean at the mouth of the river in a marshy area, is disputed by both countries.

Costa Rica is now asking the ICJ to request the immediate withdrawal of the Nicaraguan soldiers from the islands. It further demands that its neighbour stops the construction of a canal in the area, saying it is causing environmental damage.

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