Monday, 18 July 2011

Bolivia seeks entry into Chile-Peru ICJ case

The maritime border dispute between Chile and Peru got a lot more complicated last week, when Bolivia announced its intention to get involved in the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Monday 11th July.

A press statement from Bolivia's Ministry of Foreign relations said “Bolivia's main goal regarding the maritime dispute is to inform the ICJ regarding its views on a subject of vital interest for the Bolivian person, which is its right to sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.”

Bolivia has been landlocked since 1884, when it was defeated by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883). Previously, Bolivia had sea access through what is now northern Chile.

Gaining Bolivia sea access has been one of the driving issues of President Evo Morales' time in office. He announced in March that he intended to sue Chile at the ICJ for sovereign sea access. He has already created a maritime claim organisation to prepare legal actions for a future Bolivia-Chile ICJ case.

While Chile will undoubtedly be unhappy about Bolivia's interest in its case with Peru, how Peru will react is not yet clear. In 2010 Peru granted Bolivia access to the Pacific through a 99-year lease on a small strip of land in the south of the country.

For many Bolivians, however, this is not enough, and while some critics say Morales should focus on domestic issues, the loss of Bolivia's sea access in 1884 remains an issue of national outrage.

Peru took Chile to the ICJ over their maritime border is 2007. Peru, which also lost territory to Chile in the War of the Pacific, argues that the maritime border should follow the downward curve of the land border, which would give it control of an additional 37,900 square kilometres of ocean territory.

Chile, however, argues that the border should follow longitudinal lines.

A decision is not expected until 2013, however, if Bolivia's request to intervene is granted, a decision could take significantly longer to reach.

Sources: Santiago Times, UPI

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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