Colombia dismisses Nicaragua's World Court claims over maritime boundaries

FILE PHOTO: General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Lawyers for Colombia on Wednesday dismissed Nicaragua's claims before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), insisting that Bogota did respect a 2012 ruling on their maritime boundaries in the western Caribbean by the same court.

"All of Nicaragua's claims are unsubstantiated and artificial. They are founded on words," not actions, lawyer Manuel Jose Cepeda said.

On Monday, lawyers for Nicaragua said Colombia had violated a 2012 ruling by the ICJ, also known as the World Court, which drew a demarcation line in favour of Nicaragua in Caribbean waters, reducing the expanse of sea belonging to Colombia.

Nicaragua accused Colombia of cherry picking, saying it accepted the court's ruling that a cluster of small islands was Colombian, but not the demarcation of maritime boundaries in the same judgment.

The new sea borders increased Nicaragua’s continental shelf and economic exclusion zone in the Caribbean, giving it access to underwater oil and gas deposits, as well as fishing rights.

Colombia said Wednesday its ships were occasionally present in the disputed area, in line with international law. It argued the vessels were needed for environmental preservation and for other international duties like cooperating in anti-drug trafficking actions, Cepeda said.

Nicaragua has asked the court to rule that Colombia has not respected its 2012 ruling and must give assurances it will not do the same again.

The two sides will be able to respond to each other's arguments in hearings planned to run until Oct. 1.

The ICJ is the United Nations' highest legal body, and deals with disputes between states. It usually takes years before a judgment is given in cases it handles, and even then, the court has no way to enforce its rulings.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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