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Nicaragua ‘invaded’ Costa Rican land, UN court hears


nicaragua mapNicaragua has “invaded” a tiny stretch of Costa Rican territory on its northeast coast, the International Court of Justice heard on Tuesday in the latest salvo of a marathon Central American dispute.

“Nicaragua invaded Costa Rican territory in the region of Isla Portillos and there established military camps,” San Jose’s representative Edgar Ugalde Alvarez told the Hague-based court.

“This behaviour is a serious violation of international law,” said Alvarez before the UN’s highest court on the opening day of hearings into the border quarrel between the two neighbours.

The fight first reached the ICJ in 2010 when Costa Rica complained that Nicaragua’s army had occupied a three square kilometre (just over one square mile) block near the mouth of the San Juan river.

Nicaragua will on Thursday put its case to the court, claiming that the disputed land — called Isla Portillos by San Jose and Harbour Head by Managua — is historically its territory.

“The truth is that it’s 250 hectares of beautiful nature, nothing more,” said Nicaragua’s ambassador Carlos Arguello Gomez.

“We’re not talking about a territory filled with oil or anything of value. Simply, it belongs to us,” Gomez said.

Costa Rica also accuses Nicaragua of building canals to divert the San Juan river, causing environmental damage to the protected wetlands area.

The ICJ ruled in March 2011 that both countries must refrain from sending anyone to, or maintaining anyone on, the disputed territory, whether they be civilians, police or military.

Tensions in the area flared in 2011, when Nicaragua filed suit before the ICJ over a road on the Costa Rican side of the border which Managua said was also causing environmental damage.

Around 20 percent of the population of Costa Rica is Nicaraguan or of Nicaraguan origin.

Founded in 1945, the ICJ is the United Nations’ highest court.

It has no power to enforce its rulings, but two countries must agree before a case can be brought before the court.

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