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Costa Rica files ICJ complaint over Nicaragua border dispute

Costa Rica filed a complaint Thursday with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] accusing Nicaragua of violating its territorial integrity [press release, PDF] and damaging protected wetlands. Costa Rica contends that 50 Nicaraguan soldiers remain in the area and that Nicaragua is attempting to build a canal [Tico Times report] there. The filling came after Nicaraguan President Jose Daniel Ortega rejected a nearly unanimous Organization of American States (OAS) [official website] resolution [text] inviting Nicaragua to withdraw its troops. Ortega indicated the OAS had killed any possibility of resolving the dispute through dialogue [Guardian report] and lashed out at several neighboring OAS member states accusing them of being influenced by the drug trade. Ortega's environmental adviser also decried the environmental damage claims accusing Costa Rica of polluting the San Jose river [EFE report, in Spanish]. Costa Rica has requested the court stop the construction of the canal [CNN report] to avoid irreparable harm. The OAS is set reconvene in December to attempt to resolve the dispute [La Tercera Mundo report, in Spanish], but it is questionable whether Nicaragua will comply. Costa Rican Foreign Minister Rene Castro has expressed confidence, however, that the ICJ can compel Nicaragua to withdraw [AP report].

The dispute centers around Calero Island, a small area of land at the mouth of the San Jose river which has been disputed territory for over a century [LAT report]. The dispute arose last month when Eden Pastora, director of the dredging project, relied on a Google Maps error [Google Maps statement] based on flawed US State Department [official website] information to send troops to the area that Nicaragua now refuses to leave [Bloomberg report]. In 2009, the ICJ adjudicated another dispute [JURIST report] between Costa Rica and Nicaragua surrounding use of the San Jose river, which separates the two Central American nations. The court ruled [judgment, PDF] in July 2009 that Nicaragua had interfered with Costa Rica's right of free navigation on the San Juan river four years after Costa Rica filed the complaint [case materials] in 2005.

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