Testimony resumes on Isla Portillos

Costa Rican litigators were back at the World Court in The Hague Tuesday in the long-running dispute over three square kilometers of land along the Río San Juan.

The original case came before the international court in November 2010. No decision is expected for at least one more year.

This is the case in which the government of Nicaragua originally based its claim on a Google map that later was declared inaccurate.

Costa Rica presented its case in two sessions Tuesday. It told the court that Nicaragua dredged the river, occupied Costa Rican territory with soldiers, destroyed trees and wetlands and dug a canal through Costa Rican territory.

The 19th century treaty on which the country’s northern border is based has an unusual twist. The international boundary is not the center of the river but the south bank. So if Nicaragua were successful in punching through the Isla Portillo a channel to the Caribbean, the river would widen it and the Costa Rican land to the north would become Nicaraguan.

The mouth of the Río San Juan is silted up, so a clear channel to the Caribbean would facilitate development along the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast and along the river.

The hearing is supposed to last until May 1. Nicaragua claims Costa Rica damaged the river by constructing a roadway along the south bank. This is the infamous route that has resulted in criminal charges of corruption.

Costa Rican officials said they are confident of a decision in their favor based on maps, documents, and decades of history to support the country’s claim.

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