International Court Gives Nicaragua More Waters, Outlying Keys to Colombia

By Dialogo
November 21, 2012

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) expanded Nicaraguan maritime sovereignty over the Caribbean, but kept part of San Andrés island’s western border as Colombia wanted, and gave the South American country all disputed keys in an area rich in oil and other resources.

The ICJ determined an irrevocable ruling over a large part of the maritime border between Colombia and Nicaragua. Both countries had previously committed to unconditionally accepting the ruling, after several decades of bilateral disputes.

Colombia, the first of both countries to react, rejected the new maritime delimitation.

“When demarcating the maritime borders, the Court committed serious mistakes that I must highlight, and which affect us negatively … these are all omissions, errors, excesses, inconsistencies that we cannot tolerate,” President Juan Manuel Santos said to the country after the ruling.

On the other hand, Santos was pleased with the ratification of the Colombian sovereignty over islands and keys, and he did not specify how he would oppose the maritime demarcation stipulated in the ICJ ruling, which is considered irrevocable.

“We shall not discard any resources conceded by the international law,” said the head of state.

His Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega, considered the ICJ ruling as a “national victory” that had restored maritime spaces taken by Colombia in the Caribbean, and urged the South American nation to respect the high court’s decision.

The ruling that came from the 15 judges of the ICJ – the main judicial body of the United Nations, which have universal jurisdiction – was submitted in The Hague in a two-hour presentation by the court’s main representative, Peter Tomka.

“The Court concludes that Colombia, not Nicaragua, had sovereignty” over the islets in dispute, indicated Tomka. He was referring to the Albuquerque, Bajo Nuevo, Este-Sudeste, Quitasueño, Roncador, Serrana and Serranilla keys.

The other aspect of the dispute was the demarcation of the maritime border, in which the Nicaraguan jurisdiction was extended from the east of the 82nd meridian to Colombia’s current jurisdiction. In this way, the ruling favored Managua so as to compensate what was considered an “important disparity” benefitting Bogotá.

Tomka spoke in detail about the coordinates of the new border, which extends the Nicaraguan sovereignty towards the east, but maintains a portion of the Colombian jurisdiction up to San Andrés and Providencia islands, as well as in a ratio of only 12 nautical miles around the Colombian keys of Serrana and Quitasueño, rich in fish, lobsters and conch.

The Court did not specify the total maritime extension attributed to each country, since there are two sections that remain without demarcation toward the east: the judges did not want to extend their ruling beyond 200 miles off shore.

Please send me or post the full ICJ ruling.