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Costa Rica v. Nicaragua Maritime Delimitation Report (Assessment)


The case under consideration is Costa Rica v. Nicaragua. It is connected to maritime delimitation in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This case is of special interest because it is associated with the provisions of international law and, in particular, the law of the sea and boundaries between states. Therefore, the paper at hand aims at analyzing the case in detail with the main focus on providing its summary, mentioning key facts and legal components, and reviewing the court decision and judges’ stances on the issue under investigation.

Summary of Case

Costa Rica v. Nicaragua is one of the border-related legal cases. The application to the International Court of Justice was filed by the Republic of Costa Rica against the Republic of Nicaragua. The issue under consideration is the establishment of a maritime boundary between the two states that would be determined in accordance with the norms of international legislation and be single for the both states as well as the global community (“Maritime Delimitation”).

The boundary is in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The application was filed on February 25, 2014. The latest document – an order – was published on May 15, 2017. According to this order, this case should be united with another case concerning Costa Rica and Nicaragua (land border in the Northern parts of the states) and reviewed as a single case due to their connection to the issue of borders between states.

Facts Related to the Case

Costa Rica and Nicaragua are neighboring states. They have a boundary in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. However, the boundaries are not legally determined so that there are common disputes related to the control over particular territories. The problem under investigation is not a new challenge. It dates back to the 1990s, and there are several critical facts in the history of relations between Nicaragua and Costa Rica that became the foundation of the existing issue.

For instance, in 1998, there were territorial disputes related to the control over San Juan River. Even though it is controlled by Nicaragua, Costa Rica may use it for increasing economic and social benefits. For instance, it is permitted to use this river for commercial purposes. However, in 1998, Nicaraguan authorities decided to collect taxes from Costa Rican tourists and limit policemen transit in this river. This initiative has become the foundation of the dispute.

In 2002, the two states initiated negotiations aimed at determining the boundaries. However, they failed to address all the issues properly. That is why Nicaragua unilaterally terminated negotiations and the country’s government decided to amend the domestic legislation and establish the maritime boundary by a straight line. This decision was positive for Nicaragua because it granted increased control over the territories related to the dispute, including continental shelf.

However, the Costa Rican government was not satisfied with these developments and wanted to initiate another round of negotiations in March 2013. Just like the first attempt, this one was a failure. Being not supported in the subsequent attempt to begin negotiation in June 2013, the Costa Rican government decided to file the application to the International Court of Justice in order to solve the existing problem and determine universal maritime boundaries between the two states.

Legal Components of the Case

It is as well essential to understand the motivations of both sides of the dispute. Costa Rica based its application on the fact that several attempts were made to address the problem bilaterally. However, because of Nicaragua’s unwillingness to cope with the challenge, the government was forced to seek for international support. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the general norms of international law related to maritime delimitation were chosen as the foundation for the application.

Based on these provisions, Costa Rica demanded to extend its maritime boundary and obtain control over 12 nautical miles of the territorial sea and 200 nautical miles of the exclusive economic zone as well as the continental shelf. More than that, the government asked the Court for reviewing the boundary because Nicaragua has several islands and its shoreline is not straight so that the decision made by the Nicaraguan government is unjust and illegal. On the other hand, the representatives of Nicaragua claimed that their boundary is established in a legally acceptable manner so that they do not recognize the appropriateness of the application filed to the International Court of Justice.

Decision by Court

The Court decided that it is necessary to join two cases related to border issues. Even though they are connected to different problems, they focus on both land and maritime border so that joining the cases may be beneficial for determining a legally appropriate and relevant boundary between the states that would be just. Moreover, time frames for preparing pleadings by both states were identified: March 5, 2017, for Costa Rica and April 18, 2017, for Nicaragua. As for now, the decision is to continue proceedings related to the case in order to solve it properly (“Maritime Delimitation”).

Judges’ Stances on the Issue

All judges agreed with the decision to join two border-related cases in one so that it is possible to establish a single boundary between the two states. Their agreement is based on the belief that it is essential to obtain more information regarding the issue under consideration. It can be achieved during site visits aimed at collecting expert opinions.

This decision can be explained by the fact that there is no enough evidence for solving both cases so that it is critical to incorporate expert opinions into the proceedings, as it would be beneficial for the two countries and the global community. Moreover, all judges recognized the fact that, according to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, it has the right to join cases and address them as a single case whenever the institution finds it necessary and believes in the effectiveness of such a step for maximizing opportunities for administering a just solution to the case (“Maritime Delimitation”).

Reflection on the Case

Keeping in mind all the facts related to the case, I am strongly inclined to believe that the currently available decision is a correct one. Even though the case still remains unsolved, it is possible to state that the request to join two cases and review them in a comprehensive manner is a potentially effective decision, although more time will be needed to solve the case. I agree with the judges because of the long history of border-related disputes between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

For this reason, it is of extreme importance to review the problem in a proper way and address it in the closest future. This belief can be explained by the fact that ignoring the problem may be associated with destabilizing situation in the region. Except for potential threats to peace, it may undermine the effectiveness of the international law system. Therefore, the case should not be ignored.

Work Cited

“Maritime Delimitation in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua).” International Court of Justice. 2017. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Costa Rica v. Nicaragua Maritime Delimitation." November 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/costa-rica-v-nicaragua-maritime-delimitation/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Costa Rica v. Nicaragua Maritime Delimitation." November 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/costa-rica-v-nicaragua-maritime-delimitation/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Costa Rica v. Nicaragua Maritime Delimitation'. 18 November.

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