The UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Thursday that Colombia must “immediately cease” interference in the waters of the Caribbean Sea that court recognizes as belonging to the exclusive economic zone of Nicaragua.
By 10 votes against 5, the ICJ judges considered that Colombia “has violated the sovereign and jurisdictional rights of Nicaragua“, and by 9 votes against 6 they indicated that Colombia “must immediately cease this conduct”.
This controversy between the two countries has its origin in a judgment of the ICJ itself in 2012, which recognized Colombian sovereignty in the San Andrés archipelagoProvidencia and Santa Catalina, in the Caribbean, but recognized the jurisdiction of Nicaragua in the surrounding waters.
In 2013, Nicaragua filed a complaint with the court alleging that Colombia interfered in fishing activities and scientists in waters that were under its jurisdiction, and since then the process dragged on in The Hague.
Colombia claimed that this was due to the fulfillment of its commitments in the fight against drug trafficking and in the environmental protection of waters.
Besides, the Colombian delegation presented counterclaims to Nicaragua, including one for violating the rights of communities that inhabit those islands and that have practiced artisanal and subsistence fishing for centuries in the region.
That claim, however, was not admitted by the court.
The ICJ also dismissed a lawsuit from Nicaragua regarding the alleged issuance of permits oil exploration by Colombia.
However, it pointed out in its preamble that Colombia “has violated its international obligations” by authorizing fishing activities in waters under the jurisdiction of Nicaragua.