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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 12
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Another round planned in Hague court

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Costa Rican government is going back to the International Court of Justice with more complaints and a new case on the territorial dispute with Nicaragua.

Costa Rica alleges a violation of territorial sovereignty as the reason for this new case against Nicaragua. A Nicaraguan military camp was established on Isla Portillos, according to Costa Rican officials. The court had previously declared that area as Costa Rican territory after a ruling made in December 2015.

With this new military build-up, Costa Rica is calling for the court to delimit a sand bar that separates the Laguna Los Portillos, or Harbor Head Lagoon as it is known in Nicaragua, from Costa Rican territory. The lagoon is located in the north of Isla Portillos and is part of Nicaraguan territory, but the land surrounding it on all three sides is Costa Rican.

Manuel González, the Costa Rican minister for foreign affairs, emphasized that the government will ask the court to expedite both this case and one begun in 2014 over the establishment of a maritime boundary together in one ruling.

Costa Rica is also requesting the court to determine the amount of compensation owed by Nicaragua as a result of the most recent decision made in December 2015. The government of Costa Rica brought this case over a 2011 violation of national sovereignty by Nicaragua that sent troops to substantiate its claim to an area around the mouth of the Río San Juan.

The conflict escalated into a running legal battle as Nicaragua pushed a countersuit that Costa Rica had failed to assess the environmental impact of constructing that road near protected wetlands.

The court ruled that Nicaragua’s countersuit of environmental violations was valid, however the territorial violation of Costa Rican national sovereignty by Nicaragua was the only aspect warranting monetary compensation.

The two governments accepted the ruling of the court and had a deadline of Dec. 16 to set up an agreement to the specifics of the compensation. That deadline passed with neither side reaching an agreement and prompting this most recent request by Costa Rica.

A proposal sent back in June 2016 by Costa Rica to Nicaragua called for $6.7 million to be paid as compensation. Nicaragua rejected this proposal in November and requested more documentation. The Costa Rican government claims that, although the Dec. 16 deadline passed with no response, it gave Nicaragua extra time to reconsider or present a counteroffer as a gesture of good faith.

Daniel Ortega, the longtime president of Nicaragua, made overtures to Costa Rica back in December suggesting he would accept the ruling and pay, but has since done nothing else.

As a result of the December 2015 ruling, the International Court of Justice in The Hague must now determine the compensation Nicaragua should pay for violation of territorial sovereignty. Costa Rica expects the decision on the amount of compensation to be made by the end of 2017.


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