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ICJ rules Uruguay may continue operating pulp mill on Argentina border

[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] in The Hague ruled [judgment, PDF; case materials] Tuesday that Uruguay may continue operating a pulp mill on the River Uruguay despite breaching its treaty obligations to Argentina. The ICJ found that Uruguay did not breach its substantive obligation [press release, PDF] to Argentina to protect the environment under the 1975 Statute of the River Uruguay [text, PDF] by planning to construct two pulp mills. The court did find that Uruguay had breached its procedural duties laid out in the statute by not cooperating with Argentina and the Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay (CARU) during the development phase and prior to the construction of the Orion (Botnia) pulp mill, but concluded that shutting down the plant or ordering damages would not be an appropriate remedy. The ruling was criticized by environmental activists [Reuters report] but welcomed by diplomats from both Argentina and Uruguay who hoped it would help repair relations between the two countries.

The hearings for the treaty dispute began [JURIST report] in September. Argentina claimed that pollutants from the plant were causing extreme harm [El Pais report, in Spanish] to the river and surrounding environment and that Uruguay failed to obtain Argentina's approval before starting the project. In 2007, the ICJ refused [JURIST report] to order Argentina to prevent demonstrators protesting the plant from blocking traffic on roads and bridges into the country from Uruguay. In 2006, the ICJ denied [JURIST report] Argentina's request that Uruguay be ordered to stop construction on the plants.

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