COSTA RICA / NICARAGUA
Central American tribunal orders suspension of highway
Construction in Costa Rican territory endangers San Juan River and affects biodiversity.
The Costa Rican government rejected the unanimous decision of the Central American Court of Justice, or CCJ, headquartered in Managua, to suspend the construction of a highway along the southern bank of the San Juan River, on the border with Nicaragua, citing an “environmental hazard.”
Issued on July 2, the decision addresses a lawsuit filed in December by Nicaraguan nongovernmental organizations for the environmental damages that the highway could have on the San Juan River, over which Nicaragua has sovereignty. Furthermore, in December Nicaragua filed a suit against Costa Rica with the International Criminal Court of The Hague, Netherlands for the same case.
“Costa Rica acted without consultation, in a unilateral, inappropriate, and hasty manner, violating international bilateral and multilateral agreements,” reads the decision.
Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla qualified the decision as “false and illegitimate” and declared that Costa Rica will not abide by the decision because her nation does not recognize the competence of the CCJ, institution that is part of the Central American Integration System, or SICA. Costa Rica justified the construction of the road — that runs mostly parallel to the river — by pointing out the impediments to free navigation, to which it is entitled, imposed by Nicaragua.
Although Costa Rica has never recognized the jurisdiction of the CCJ, Salvadoran Judge Ricardo Acevedo clarified that, as signatory to the Tegucigalpa Protocol that created SICA in 1991, the country is obligated to abide by the decisions of the regional court.
According to Acevedo, Costa Rica ignores the CCJ and its decisions for “political, not legal reasons.”
The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry announced on July 4 that it will not take part in the SICA’s forums during the next six months, as long as Nicaragua holds the president pro tempore position of the regional block.
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said that the CCJ “has neither competence nor credibility to tell us how to do things or order us anything. It is an illegitimate court that we do not recognize and that attempts to intervene in bilateral issues, which hurts the integration system.” —Latinamerica Press.