ICJ: Sovereign Rights & Maritime Spaces (Nicaragua/Colombia) Judgment

On 21 April 2022 the ICJ delivered its Judgment on the merits, Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Judgment. This Judgment was accompanied by 3 Dissenting Opinions (Judge Abraham; Judge Nolte; Judge ad hoc McRae) 4 Declarations (Vice-President Gevorgian; Judge Bennouna; Judge Xue; Judge Iwasawa) and 3 Separate Opinions (Judge Tomka; Judge Yusuf; Judge Robinson). Previously, the ICJ delivered its Preliminary Objections, Judgment of 17 March 2016 and the previous decisions on sovereignty over certain maritime features and maritime delimitation in the Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Judgment of 19 November 2012 formed an integral part of the legal and geographic background to this case.

The Judgment of 21 April 2022 includes, among others, significant statements on the scope of the customary international law of the sea, the scope of coastal state rights in the contiguous zone, rights and duties concerning freedom of navigation and marine environmental protection, exceptionalism of historic fishing rights, and the scope of straight baselines and their relationship to other rights and duties in the law of the sea. The operative clause (paragraph 261, votes omitted) states:

THE COURT,
(1) By ten votes to five,
Finds that its jurisdiction, based on Article XXXI of the Pact of Bogotá, to adjudicate upon the dispute regarding the alleged violations by the Republic of Colombia of the Republic of Nicaragua’s rights in the maritime zones which the Court declared in its 2012 Judgment to appertain to the Republic of Nicaragua, covers the claims based on those events referred to by the Republic of Nicaragua that occurred after 27 November 2013, the date on which the Pact of Bogotá ceased to be in force for the Republic of Colombia;

(2) By ten votes to five,
Finds that, by interfering with fishing and marine scientific research activities of Nicaraguan-flagged or Nicaraguan-licensed vessels and with the operations of Nicaraguan naval vessels in the Republic of Nicaragua’s exclusive economic zone and by purporting to enforce conservation measures in that zone, the Republic of Colombia has violated the Republic of Nicaragua’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction in this maritime zone;

(3) By nine votes to six,
Finds that, by authorizing fishing activities in the Republic of Nicaragua’s exclusive economic zone, the Republic of Colombia has violated the Republic of Nicaragua’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction in this maritime zone;

(4) By nine votes to six,
Finds that the Republic of Colombia must immediately cease the conduct referred to in points (2) and (3) above;

(5) By thirteen votes to two,
Finds that the “integral contiguous zone” established by the Republic of Colombia by Presidential Decree 1946 of 9 September 2013, as amended by Decree 1119 of 17 June 2014, is not in conformity with customary international law, as set out in paragraphs 170 to 187 above;

(6) By twelve votes to three,
Finds that the Republic of Colombia must, by means of its own choosing, bring into conformity with customary international law the provisions of Presidential Decree 1946 of 9 September 2013, as amended by Decree 1119 of 17 June 2014, in so far as they relate to maritime areas declared by the Court in its 2012 Judgment to appertain to the Republic of Nicaragua;

(7) By twelve votes to three,
Finds that the Republic of Nicaragua’s straight baselines established by Decree No. 33-2013 of 19 August 2013, as amended by Decree No. 17-2018 of 10 October 2018, are not in conformity with customary international law;

(8) By fourteen votes to one,
Rejects all other submissions made by the Parties.

Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia), Judgment [261].

See also the Summary 2022/3 (21 April 2022).

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