Wednesday, November 21st 2012 - 06:01 UTC

Colombia rejects Court of Justice ruling on Caribbean islands disputed with Nicaragua

Colombia rejected the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision on the dispute with Nicaragua which recognized Colombian sovereignty over the disputed San Andrés islands but extended Nicaragua’s maritime space surrounding the islands.

President Santos said “there are omissions, errors, excesses and inconsistencies that we cannot accept” (Photo EFE)

In a message to the people of Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos called the ICJ redrawing of the map “inconsistent” with other elements of the Court’s ruling and incompatible with the 1928 Esguerra-Bárcenas Boarder Treaty.

“These are all omissions, errors, excesses and inconsistencies that we cannot accept,” Santos said. “Taking all this into account, Colombia—represented by its head of state—emphatically rejects this aspect of the ruling by the Court.”

Santos said Colombia will not “rule out any recourse or mechanism provided by international law to defend our rights.”

He said his government “respects the law,” but thinks the ICJ is “seriously wrong” in altering the maritime boundaries to give more ocean to Nicaragua.

Santos said that first and foremost his job as president is to defend Colombia’s constitution and “it is evident that this ruling contradicts our Magna Carta and various international treaties.”

Santos closed by telling the people of Colombia and San Andres that they can rest assured that his government “will defend, with total conviction, the rights of the islanders and all our compatriots.”

Previous to Santos’ comments the ruling by The Hague, which is legally binding for both countries, was hailed by Nicaragua as a final resolution to the decades’ long border conflict between the two countries.

Colombian Foreign minister María Angela Holguín at a press conference in the island of San Andrés said that the The Hague Court ruling has “inconsistencies, omissions referred to the continental platform of the (disputed) islands of San Andres and Providencia”, but at no moment “have we said we will not abide the decision. We are considering other legal resources”.

Ms Holguín said the International Court of Justice decision was “not fair” and admitted the Colombian government is ‘baffled’ because in similar cases the court “has never adopted a decision like that announced on Monday”.

The decision “ignores the exclusive economic zone and the continental platform of the island of Providencia, as well as the continental platform and exclusive economic zone of San Andrés island to the south”, claimed the Colombian minister.

The dispute dates back to 1928 when Nicaragua ceded to Colombia the islands of San Andres and Providencia under the Barcenas-Meneses Esguerra treaty, ratified in 1933. But by then Nicaragua had been intervened by the United States.

In 1969 Colombia tried to establish the limit with Nicaragua along the 82 meridian, but Managua rejected the proposal saying the treaty did not establish limits and that the new initiative cut Nicaragua’s Caribbean continental shelf. In 1980 Nicaragua rejected the treaty.

In 2001 Nicaragua disputed before the International Court of Justice Colombia’s sovereignty over the disputes archipelago, but six years later admitted Colombian sovereignty over the islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina and declared it was competent to decide on the maritime delimitation between the two countries as well as of other smaller keys.

6 comments Feed

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1 briton (#) Nov 21st, 2012 - 12:50 pm Report abuse
perhaps you should talk to CFK,
she rejects everything.
2 Idlehands (#) Nov 21st, 2012 - 02:27 pm Report abuse
It is odd that the ICJ can confirm an island group belongs to one nation but declare the surrounding waters belong to another nation.
3 ljb (#) Nov 21st, 2012 - 03:31 pm Report abuse
It does seem strange.
4 Conqueror (#) Nov 21st, 2012 - 04:52 pm Report abuse
It is important that the actual judgement is examined. Whilst I consider part of the Court's judgement to be illogical and unworkable, the Court has NOT declared “the surrounding waters belong to another nation.” What it has done is to rule that the major part of the area claimed by Colombia DOES belong to Colombia. In respect of two Islands, Quitasueno and Serrana, it has also declared that they belong to Colombia. The “problem” is that they have used the “enclave” solution. Quitasueno and Serrana both have a 12-mile territorial sea around them that also belongs to Colombia. So there are spaces between the territorial seas of these two islands and the main area of Colombian sovereignty. It is my thought that the Court has created more problems than it has solved. Having said that, Quitasueno is tiny. Barely 1 square metre above water at high water. Serrana is larger, but not by much. On balance, Colombia seems to have got about 95% of what it wanted. Perhaps Colombia should try for a bilateral agreement with Nicaragua.
5 Pugol-H (#) Nov 21st, 2012 - 07:32 pm Report abuse
Looking at the new map and reading the ruling, the court has tried to be fair to both sides.

Colombia keeps the islands and seabed to the east, Nicaragua gets a horseshoe in effect, around the islands to the North and South up to the 200 mile limit.

Difficult to see what Colombia can do as the ruling is binding.

Another one to add to the growing list of ongoing S American territorial disputes.

Quite a fashion CFK has started down there.
6 British_Kirchnerist (#) Nov 24th, 2012 - 12:16 am Report abuse
Perhaps this could be a good model for the Falklands; the Islands can stay British for the Islanders, but the surrounding waters and their oil can be Argentine, as they would automatically be anayway without the strategicly placed presence of a smaller than average British village...

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