World court grants Colombia disputed Caribbean islands

November 19, 2012

THE HAGUE – The International Court of Justice on Monday ruled Colombia has sovereignty over all small islands previously disputed by Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea, court President Peter Tomka said.

“The court concludes that Colombia, and not Nicaragua, has sovereignty over the disputed islets,” Tomka said, reading the world court ruling. The cays are Albuquerque, Bajo Nuevo, Este-Sudeste, Quitasueño, Roncador and Serranilla.

The ruling gives Colombia control of the waters and seabed immediately surrounding the islands and cays. Nicaragua gains control of a large, horseshoe-shaped area of sea and seabed stretching from its mainland coast around the Colombian islands.

Tomka detailed the coordinates of the new borders, which extend eastward sovereignty of Nicaragua, while maintaining Colombian jurisdiction of an area up to the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, and within 12 nautical miles around Quitasueño and Serrana.

The dispute began in 1928 when Managua ceded Bogota the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina with the signing of a treaty know as Barcenas-Meneses Esguerra, ratified in 1933 when the the United States intervened.

In 1969, Colombia sought to establish the border with Nicaragua in the 82nd meridian, which Managua rejected, claiming that the treaty did not set limits. In 1980, Nicaragua declared the treaty void.

In December 2001, Nicaragua filed a complaint against Colombia at the world court over the sovereignty of the islets, a maritime area of 50,000 square kilometers. Six years later, the court recognized Colombian sovereignty over the three islands.

Last May, the court concluded its analysis of the dispute and summoned both parties to a final reading of the ruling on Monday.

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