World court rejects Nicaragua’s claim to rights on Río Colorado

The International Court of Justice has rejected a request by Nicaragua for free passage on the Río Colorado, said the Costa Rican foreign ministry. The court orders are not yet available.

This is a new chapter in the dispute over the invasion by Nicaragua into land in extreme northeast Costa Rica.

The court based in The Hague, The Netherlands is a United Nations entity.  It had been hearing the case since 2010. Last August Nicaragua filed a counterclaim that sought access to the Río Colorado.

That river really is a second major channel of the Río San Juan that flows south from the river through Costa Rica.

The court also said that it rejected Nicaragua’s call for oversight of Costa Rica’s activities in building a road along the south bank of the Río San Juan. Nicaragua had claimed that the road construction was putting sediment into the river. The court is the highest authority on the dispute over the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The court also said it decided to join both the original Costa Rican claim of encroachment and the Nicaragua counterclaims into one case. The foreign ministry said that both countries have to file written responses in December and that the court will set the date for oral arguments then. The decision joining both cases is on the court’s Web site.

The international boundary is the south bank of the river. That has caused problems for Costa Rica, and Nicaragua frequently demands fees from tourists on the river. Until Costa Rica started construction of the Ruta 1856, the river was the only means of transport among the isolated communities.

Nicaraguan officials want to develop the area north of the river, but they need a silt-free channel to the Caribbean. The final 40 kilometers of the river wanders and is silted up. The Río Colorado is not, but it is well within Costa Rican territory.

Nicaragua wanted to take over a small part of Costa Rica to dig a channel from the Río San Juan to the Caribbean, that route went through environmentally sensitive areas.

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