News Latin America Colombia concludes its first day of interventions in The Hague

Colombia concludes its first day of interventions in The Hague

The Colombian defense team before the International Court of Justice, in The Hague (Netherlands), this Tuesday.Alvaro Leyva (RR.SS.)

Colombia concluded its first day of interventions on Tuesday in the case against Nicaragua that is taking place at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), based in The Hague (Netherlands). The Colombian Foreign Minister, Alvaro Leyva, stated after the session that what the Central American country is demanding is “impressive”. “Colombia insists that there are no rules under customary international law that allow a State to supersede its claims to an extended continental shelf over the exclusive economic zone of another State,” the minister declared.

The process has drawn attention in The Hague because it is the first time that the ICJ limits the issues that can be dealt with in the hearings. The court seeks to focus on two strictly legal issues. The first refers to whether there is a custom in international law with the force of a rule that applies to continental shelves and that States accept as mandatory. The second addresses how to delimit a platform that overlaps with the 200 nautical miles that correspond to another country as part of its exclusive economic zone. For the moment, other issues have been left out, such as a probative analysis of whether the Nicaraguan platform really has the extension that the Central American country claims.

Both countries have faced two other disputes in recent years, with wins and losses for each. The ICJ recognized in 2012 the sovereignty of Colombia over the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, while it granted Nicaragua a greater extension of maritime zones than those in which it had been exercising sovereignty. A decade later, in April this year, it ruled that both countries had violated each other’s sovereignty after the latest ruling. Especially Colombia, which had to “immediately cease” fishing activities in those Nicaraguan maritime areas.

The arguments of this third lawsuit began on Monday, with the arguments of Nicaragua. They continue this Wednesday and Thursday with the replicas of each State and conclude on Friday. A court decision is not expected for a few months. A judgment can close the case, while an order can lead the process to evaluate the more technical considerations.

The foreign minister has insisted that there are no precedents to support the Nicaraguan requests. “We are not going to be the ones who are going to lend ourselves to this, we have to avoid it at all costs,” he declared. According to him, there have been no contacts to approach positions directly with Nicaragua.


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The hearings debut the new Colombian negotiating team. On November 22, Leyva installed the new agent, Eduardo Valencia-Ospina, a jurist who knows the ICJ well and who was president of the United Nations International Law Commission. He is accompanied by two co-agents: the ambassador to the Netherlands, Carolina Olarte, and Elizabeth Taylor, former ambassador to Kenya. The foreign minister recalled that Taylor is a member of the Raizal people of the archipelago, affected by the border disputes with Nicaragua. It is the first time that a member of this community is part of the negotiating team.

Leyva has also affirmed that the Colombian cause involves the entire region and the world due to the precedents it may establish. He has commented that the team hopes to add the support of “the entire Caribbean”, concerned about the exploitation of natural resources that may occur in the disputed area. For the Andean country, the case is part of the “total peace” policy.

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