Foley Hoag Helps Nicaragua to Two World Court Victories Against Colombia

March 18, 2016

The International Court of Justice issued two judgments on March 17, 2016 favoring Nicaragua in separate lawsuits against Colombia concerning disputed maritime rights in the Caribbean Sea. In both cases, the Court, located in The Hague and also known as the World Court, rejected Colombia's jurisdictional objections and agreed to hear the merits of Nicaragua's claims.

"This is a total victory for Nicaragua," declared Ambassador Carlos Arguello, Nicaragua's Agent before the Court.

Nicaragua was represented in both cases by partners Paul Reichler and Lawrence Martin of Foley Hoag LLP, as well as Professors Alain Pellet of France, Vaughan Lowe of the U.K., Antonio Remiro of Spain and Alex Oude Elferink of the Netherlands.

"The Court's rejection of Colombia's jurisdictional defenses clears the way for Nicaragua to vindicate and expand its rights to the waters and seabed of the Western Caribbean Sea, including oil and gas resources," said Reichler, the Chair of Foley Hoag's International Litigation and Arbitration Practice.

In the first of the two decisions, the Court found that it had jurisdiction to consider Nicaragua's claims that Colombia had violated its rights under a 2012 Judgment unanimously awarding Nicaragua vast amounts of sea and seabed that Colombia had also claimed. The Court will now hear and decide whether Colombia has violated the terms of that Judgment, as Nicaragua has alleged.

According to Ambassador Arguello, the effect of the Court's decision is to underscore that "its Judgments must be complied with. Period."

In the second case, the Court determined that it would consider Nicaragua's claim to an extended continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from its Caribbean coast, a claim that the Court declined to consider in 2012. The Court explained that, in the interim, Nicaragua had complied with certain obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which had not been fulfilled at the time of the prior case.

Reichler hailed the Court's decision for facilitating judicial resolution of disputes over maritime entitlements in the extended continental shelf, and bringing the Court into conformity with other tribunals, especially the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg.

"The ICJ now joins ITLOS and arbitral tribunals in enabling expeditious judicial resolution of continental shelf boundary disputes, instead of subjecting them to interminable and arcane procedural obstacles," Reichler said.

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