World Court orders Colombia to cease activities in Nicaraguan maritime zone
By Stephanie van den Berg
THE HAGUE (Reuters) -Judges at the International Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that Colombia must "immediately cease" patrolling and trying to control fishing in parts of the Caribbean that the ICJ said are within Nicaragua's exclusive economic zone.
The ICJ ruled that Colombian activities in the Nicaraguan zone, including giving out fishing rights to others and interfering with maritime research, violated Nicaragua's sovereign rights.
In 2012, the world court handed down a judgment that reduced the expanse of sea belonging to Colombia.
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 in those waters.
The judges on Thursday also ordered Colombia to amend a 2013 presidential decree that established a zone around Colombian islands in the disputed area. According to the court, the zone, as mentioned in the decree, is too large and the powers Colombia says it has in the document are not in line with customary international law.
After the ruling, a representative of the Colombian government said he did not see it as a victory for Nicaragua because not all Managua's requests were granted.
"We are satisfied with today's ruling," Carlos Arrieta Padilla told journalists outside the court.
He added that Colombia cannot implement aspects of the ruling before going through a "special procedure". Bogota has argued that it can only change its borders by bilateral treaty and cannot therefore fully implement the court's 2012 ruling.
Joseph Jessie, a representative of the Afro-Caribbean ethnic group which lives on the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia, said in an audio shared by the foreign ministry that he felt a sense of "mission accomplished" because the court recognized his community's fishing rights.
Lawyers for Nicaragua at the court declined comment on the ruling.
The ruling reiterated Colombia's right to patrol the area to fight drug trafficking and trans-national crime, Colombian President Ivan Duque said early on Thursday from San Andres.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; additional reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Mark Heinrich)