Thursday, September 29, 2005

ICJ Watch: Costa Rica Will Sue Nicaragua

Costa Rica's government announced today that it will apply to the ICJ to resolve a decades-long dispute with Nicaragua over navigation rights on the parts of the San Juan River that run between the two countries (UPDATE: Press release announcing the case is here. It looks like the most important precedent for this case is an opinion by U.S. President Grover Cleveland acting as an arbitrator way back in 1888). Without having any opinions on the merits of the actual dispute, this seems like another example of the limited usefulness of having a permanent international judicial institution like the ICJ to resolve these kinds of border disputes(usually between small countries of roughly equal power and status). Both countries appear to have accepted the ICJ's compulsory jurisdiction.

On the other hand, Nicaragua may oppose the involvement of the ICJ and it seems unlikely that the two countries will agree to the "fast track" arbitration-like process that worked so well for Benin and Niger recently.

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