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Nicaragua to Pay Costa Rica for Environmental Damage

THE HAGUE – The International Court of Justice ordered Nicaragua on Friday to pay Costa Rica $378,890 for environmental damages caused by its troops when they established a military camp on the island of Portillos and dredged its fragile coastal mangrove forest between 2010-2013.

The ICJ judges evaluated the compensation damages that Costa Rica had demanded from the Nicaraguan government in Managua and accepted part of them because of the felling of some 300 centuries-old mangrove trees in the area.

Costa Rica had asked for a much higher sum, $6.7 million, while Nicaragua never disclosed how much money it was prepared to pay in compensation.

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The court decided not to require that Nicaragua pay for many of the costs demanded by Costa Rica, such as the salaries of public workers involved in the cleanup or the maintenance costs of specialized equipment.

Judges did rule, however, that Nicaragua pay $236,032 for miscellaneous costs and $20,150 in interest, with 15 magistrates voting in favor and one against.

The ICJ was set to announce two more related rulings later on Friday: one regarding the maritime borders between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and the other one concerning the land border to the north of Portillos island, known in Nicaragua as Harbor Head.

The small river island, with a surface of only 3 square kilometers (1.16 square miles), has been at the center of the longstanding territorial dispute between the two Central American neighbors.

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On Dec. 16, 2015, the ICJ ruled that the island – located near the San Juan River’s estuary as it flows into the Caribbean Sea – fell under Costa Rican sovereignty.

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