The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague accepted two countersuits presented by Colombia against Nicaragua, in the framework of the process of alleged violations of sovereign rights and maritime spaces in the Caribbean Sea, which has been proceeded at that tribunal since 2013.

The case was initiated by Nicaragua in December 2001. Seventy-three years earlier, the 1928 Barcenas-Esguerra Treaty had dealt with issues of sovereignty of islands in the region and for some time after that there was no obvious dispute between the two countries.

On 19 November 2012 in The Hague, the ICJ handed down its Judgement in the case concerning the dispute over territory and maritime jurisdiction in the south-western region of the Caribbean.

By admitting these two countersuits, the ICJ will analyze the Colombian claims according to which:

  • Nicaragua has violated the artisanal fishing rights of the inhabitants of San Andrés Providencia and Santa Catalina Archipelago, in particular of the Raizal community, to access and exploit their traditional fishing grounds.
  • Nicaragua has issued a decree contrary to international law related to the points and baselines from which it measures its maritime spaces in the Caribbean Sea, seeking unilaterally to adjudicate marine areas to the detriment of Colombia.

In this way, the Court has recognized that the population of the Archipelago is a main protagonist, and accepted that its historical fishing rights should be considered within the framework of the process. In addition, there may be irregularities in Nicaraguan regulations, which will be examined in more detail.

Map showing the limits set in the International Justice Court’s ruling on November 19, 2012 about the dispute.

On the other hand, the issues raised by Colombia in relation to international obligations on the protection of the marine environment in the Caribbean Sea region as well as the importance of preserving the habitat of the inhabitants of the Archipelago, will continue to be part of the defense of Colombia.

The Colombian government clarified that it still does not know the full text of the ruling, but it has already been notified of the decision adopted by the Court.