The United Nations' International Court of Justice Thursday ruled by 10 votes to 5 in favor of Nicaragua in a case regarding Caribbean Sea waters Colombia claimed as its own.
The The Hague-based Court also decided by 9 votes to 6 to order the South American country to immediately cease to act as if it had jurisdiction over them.
This controversy stems from a 2012 ICJ ruling which recognized Colombia's sovereignty in the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, in the Caribbean, while recognizing Nicaragua's jurisdiction in the surrounding waters.
Nicaragua filed a complaint in 2013 on the grounds that Colombia allegedly interfered with fishing and scientific activities. Colombia claimed its activities were part of its fight against drug trafficking in addition to the environmental protection of those waters.
Colombia Chief Negotiator Carlos Gustavo Arrieta stressed the ICJ had made no mention of Colombia's needing to leave those waters. Arrieta said the Court had in fact maintained the possibility of Colombian vessels being there and carrying out operations against organized crime.
The Colombian delegation had filed counterclaims against Nicaragua, including one for violating the rights of communities that inhabit those islands and practice artisanal and subsistence fishing. That claim, however, was not admitted by the court, which instead called for a negotiation between the two countries to define the scope of the fishing activities of those communities.
The judges argued they lacked enough evidence showing that artisanal fishing was an ancestral activity in these communities.
According to ICJ Chief Justice Joan Donoghue, Colombia failed to demonstrate that these communities have fishing rights in waters that are now under Nicaraguan jurisdiction.
The ICJ also dismissed a claim by Nicaragua over the alleged issuance of oil exploration permits by Colombia.
However, the magistrates pointed out that Colombia has violated its international obligations by interfering with fishing and scientific research activities in waters under Nicaraguan jurisdiction.
The ICJ also considered out of conformity with customary law a decree adopted in Colombia on the so-called Continuous Integral Zone in that region. However, Colombia does have the right to establish a contiguous zone around the affected islands, but the decree did not conform to customary law, the international court observed.
It also considered Nicaragua's intention to establish a linear territorial boundary to be out of conformity with customary law, as it affected Colombia's right of navigation and overflight.
Regarding the 2012 ruling, Colombia had warned back then that it would be complied with but not implemented, after which the country withdrew from the 1948 Pact of Bogotá, an instrument that mandates signatory countries to solve their disputes by peaceful means.
The ICJ was created in 1946 to solve disputes between States. Its rulings are final and countries must abide by them.