Nicaragua ‘not serious’ at top UN court says Colombia
Nicaragua has failed to show it has a serious case against Colombia in a bitter row over sea borders, Bogota told the UN’s highest court on Wednesday.
The Latin American rivals are battling it out at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over a 2012 ruling that gave Nicaragua a large swathe of the Caribbean.
Nicaragua lodged a fresh case at the Hague-based tribunal in 2013, accusing the Colombian navy and air force of still prowling the same fish- and oil-rich region.
“Nicaragua has failed to prove… case-by-case, that Colombia has violated Nicaragua’s sovereign rights,” Bogota’s representative Manuel Jose Cepeda Espinosa told judges.
“Such precarious evidence… so many distortions of what happened, makes one think that neither in 2013, nor now does Nicaragua have a serious case,” said Espinosa, a former Colombian Constitutional Court magistrate.
Colombia’s lawyers slapped down claims the country’s navy was denying Nicaraguan fishing vessels — and in turn accused Managua of interfering with indigenous fishing rights.
The loss of fishing grounds because of the ICJ’s 2012 ruling particularly affected the Raizal community, an English and Creole-speaking community who are mainly descendants of slaves abducted from Africa, lawyers said.
Not only Nicaragua “prevented them from fishing, but it has also intercepted their modest boats,” Espinosa said.
“Two centuries after they found their freedom, Nicaragua seeks to curtail the Raizal access to their traditional fishing grounds on which their culture and subsistence depends.”
Bogota’s presence in the region was “due to other imperatives” such as the fight against drug trafficking and international maritime rescue, said Espinosa.
“Colombia is present in the area in compliance with its international duties… and plays a leading role against drug trafficking,” he said.
Although there are no land borders between Nicaragua, located in Central America, and Colombia, part of South America, diplomatic relations have been strained for almost a century over disputed maritime limits.
Nicaragua finally took Colombia to the court in 2001, and in 2012 it won several thousand square kilometres of territory in the Caribbean that had previously been Colombian.
A furious Colombia, which was left with only seven islets, said at the time it would no longer recognise the court’s jurisdiction on border disputes.
Nicaragua then went back to the court in 2013 alleging violations of the judgment by Colombia.