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ICJ rejects Argentina request to halt construction of Uruguay paper mills

[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] on Thursday denied a request by Argentina [court materials] that Uruguay be barred from continuing construction of two paper mills along the river that separates the two nations [ASIL case backgrounder]. The court, voting 14-1, ruled [order, PDF; press release] that "the circumstances, as they now present themselves to the Court, are not such as to require the exercise of its power ... to indicate provisional measures." Because Argentina failed to prove that the construction of the mills "constitutes a present threat of irreparable economic and social damage," the court is allowing the construction to continue while a final judgment in the case is pending. But the court warned that

in proceeding with the authorization and construction of the mills, Uruguay necessarily bears all risks relating to any finding on the merits that the Court might later make; ... the Court points out that their construction at the current site cannot be deemed to create a
fait accompli because, as the Court has had occasion to emphasize, "if it is established that the construction of works involves an infringement of a legal right, the possibility cannot and should not be excluded a priori of a judicial finding that such works must not be continued or must be modified or dismantled."
The court noted that Argentina may, in the future, submit a new request based on new facts.

Argentina claims Uruguay's construction of the paper mills breached the Statute of the River Uruguay, which calls for prior consultation and mutual agreement about actions that could affect the river. Both countries signed the treaty in 1975. Uruguay has a significant economic stake in the $1.9 billion project, which officials hope will create 600 jobs and increase exports by 15 percent. AP has more. La Nacion has local coverage from Buenos Aires; El Pais reports from Montevideo (both in Spanish).

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