On Thursday, July 13th, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled that “a continental shelf cannot be extended if it overlaps with another State.” This ruling protects Colombia’s maritime zone in the long-standing dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua regarding the delimitation of the continental shelf.
The highest judicial organ of the United Nations rejected the request made by the Nicaraguan government to extend its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
“The Court rejects the request made by the Republic of Nicaragua, seeking a declaration that the maritime boundaries between Nicaragua and Colombia in the areas of the continental parts belong to them,” stated Judge Joan E. Donoghue.
The ICJ’s decision comes after addressing two questions that were raised during the last hearing between Colombia and Nicaragua in December. These questions aimed to determine whether there were grounds to establish an extended continental shelf.
These questions were whether the extended continental shelf, established in Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, could be applied to Colombia as a binding measure. If so, the questions also sought to determine which criteria of customary international law would be used to determine the limits of an extended continental shelf.
Joan Donoghue, President of the Court, detailed that “by 13 votes to 4, the Court rejects the request made by Nicaragua to declare that the maritime boundaries between the Republic of Nicaragua and the Republic of Colombia in the areas of the continental parts that, according to Nicaragua, belong to them, extend beyond the limits determined by the Court in its 2012 judgment.”
She further added that “by 13 votes to 4, the Court rejects the request made by the Republic of Nicaragua for the Court to adjust and declare that the islands of San Andrés and Providencia were entitled to a continental shelf up to the consistent line of 200 nautical miles from the baseline.”
During the reading of the responses, Donoghue explained that in previous cases involving Bangladesh, reference was made to maritime boundaries and recalled that the 2012 ruling did not succeed in delimiting the extended continental shelf claimed by Nicaragua.