[JURIST] The International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Monday that Nicaragua has interfered with Costa Rica's right of free navigation on the San Juan river, which separates the two Central American nations. Costa Rica filed a complaint [case materials] in the ICJ in 2005, arguing that although Nicaragua has sovereignty over the river, that country was impeding free navigation in violation of Article VI of the 1858 Treaty of Limits by requiring visas for passengers aboard Costa Rican ships, requiring that ships stop at Nicaraguan posts, and preventing Costa Rican police from using the river to re-supply river posts. The ICJ found that the treaty did establish Costa Rica's right to free navigation for "commercial purposes," and that "commerce" meant both cargo and transportation. Accordingly, said the court, visa requirements would give Nicaragua undue control over a Costa Rican right, and could not be exercised consistent with the treaty. Similarly, the court rejected Costa Rica's argument that its free navigation of the river gave its ships the freedom to dock at the Nicaragua bank without coming under Nicaraguan control. Recognizing Nicaragua's sovereignty over the river, the court found that passport and identification requirements were not an impediment to Costa Rica's use of the river. Further, the court found that official Costa Rican vehicles, including police boats, are not covered under "commercial purposes," though should be allowed when performing services necessary to the river region's inhabitants.
The ICJ heard oral arguments [press release] in the case in March. The court is also currently considering a maritime boundary dispute between Peru and Chile [ICJ materials; JURIST report] and recently decided a maritime case between Malaysia and Singapore [ICJ materials; JURIST report].