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ICJ rules for Colombia in dispute with Nicaragua over islands

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ended a long-running territorial and maritime dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua [BBC profiles] by ruling [judgment, PDF] Monday that Colombia has sovereignty over a group of small islands in the western Caribbean, while Nicaragua has control over a large amount of the surrounding sea and seabed. The court decided unanimously [press release, PDF] that Colombia has sovereignty "over the islands at Alburquerque, Bajo Nuevo, East-Southeast Cays, Quitasueno, Roncador, Serrana and Serranilla," finding that "the evidence of Colombia's acts of administration with respect to the islands" provides "very strong support for Colombia's claim of sovereignty." In regards to maritime control, the court recognized that the boundary lines they appropriated have the "effect of dividing the relevant area between the Parties ... in Nicaragua's favour." However, they found that the results were not so disproportionate "as to create an inequitable result."

Nicaragua originally brought legal action against Colombia in December 2001, claiming that Colombia had no legal control of the islands. Public hearings were finally held between April and May of this year. A portion of Nicaragua's argument was rejected in 2007, when the ICJ upheld a 1928 treaty between Nicaragua and Colombia [JURIST report] establishing that Colombia owned the islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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