San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New world court hearing over Nicaragua-Costa Rica border conflict starts next week

At the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Costa Rica and Nicaragua next week will add a new chapter to their ongoing border dispute. 

In this round, the world court will decide whether to issue additional precautionary measures over Isla Portillos, a three-kilometer island that both countries claim as their own. 

The court convened public hearings starting on Monday at the request of Costa Rica. The dispute has been raging since late 2010.

Costa Rican representatives will ask the court to add new preventive measures to those issued earlier this year, when justices ordered both countries to stay out of the disputed area. That includes both civilian and military personnel, except for scientific experts charged with evaluating alleged environmental damage caused by Nicaragua.

Costa Rica claims Nicaragua is encouraging activists to enter the area, and Tico officials say they will present evidence that Nicaraguans have opened two artificial canals to gain access to the Caribbean, causing severe environmental damage to the area, an internationally protected wetland.

Most of the evidence is based on satellite images and aerial videos taken of the area, in the northeastern corner of Costa Rica. Those images appear to show Nicaragua’s incursion into Costa Rican territory.

Manuel Madriz, an international law expert from Nicaragua, has dismissed the evidence, claiming the pictures and video do not correspond to the disputed area, but to an island in Nicaraguan territory.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said earlier this week that, “San José is open to negotiations with Managua, as long as [Nicaragua] withdraws all personnel and equipment from the area governed by the previous world court order. […] [Nicaragua] must agree not to take any further actions that aggravate the dispute.”

Nicaragua repeatedly has claimed it has not violated preventive measures ordered by the court, and has accused Costa Rica of orchestrating a campaign to vilify them.

“Costa Rica is asking for things in an area that is not in dispute. We do not think the court will issue any further measures. Nicaragua has complied with all court rulings”, Madriz told AFP, adding that San José “will have to legally prove what they claim.”

The court will hear arguments from both countries and then will set a date to announce a final ruling.

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