Uruguay reneged on treaty with Argentina: world court

20th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

The United Nations' highest court said Tuesday that Uruguay had reneged on an obligation to inform Argentina it had authorised a paper mill that its neighbour claims is polluting a shared river.

"Uruguay breached its procedural obligations to inform" Argentina of its plans via a joint commission (Caru) set up to administer the River Uruguay, International Court of Justice acting vice-president Peter Tomka said.

The court was handing down judgment in a dispute between the neighbours over the mill, owned by Finnish firm Botnia, which started operating on the Uruguayan bank of the river near the town of Fray Bentos in November 2007.

Tomka said that by not informing Caru of the planned construction before issuing authorisation for the Botnia mill, a second mill which was never constructed, as well as a port terminal, Uruguay "has failed to comply with the obligation imposed on it" by a 1975 bilateral treaty with Argentina.

"Uruguay ought not prior to notification to have issued the initial environmental authorisations and the authorisation for construction," said the judgment.

"By doing so, Uruguay gave priority to its own legislation over its procedural obligations under the 1975 statute."

In hearings before the court in September, Argentina accused its neighbour of having reneged on the treaty when it authorised the one-billion dollar (740-million-euro) Botnia mill.

It said the mill was causing "irreversible" environmental damage in a densely populated area whose inhabitants use the river for fishing, leisure and tourism.

Uruguay, however, denied it had violated any convention and said the mill was not causing pollution.

The ICJ, which considers disputes between nations, rejected a bid by Uruguay in January 2007 for an order ending a blockade of a bridge across the river by Argentinian environmentalists that has been in place since 2006.

© 2010 AFP

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