#ICJ| Nicarágua and Costa Rica present their “Google Maps War”
Updated: Jul 27, 2019
Judges start off by declaring Nicaragua guilty.
[By Florencia Fernandez]
On July 25th morning, the judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) started the session acknowledging not only the sovereignty issue but the troubling environment issue of this called “Google Maps War”. Although it seems most of them already have a sentence made on the guilt of Nicaragua.
The Costa Rica and Nicaragua lawyers presented their cases in the Oral Proceedings. First, Costa Rica’s Lawyer stated: “Nicaragua has unlawfully entered, occupied and permanently damaged Costa Rican territory.”, to which the Nicaragua´s lawyer replied: “ [...] while Nicaragua acknowledges the jurisdiction of the Court, it nevertheless consider that the main issues raised by Costa rica have already been settled by the 1858 Treaty Limits (also known as Cañas-Jerez Treaty), the 1888 Cleveland Award and the Alexander Awards of 1897-1990.”
It is called “Google Maps War” because the Google app made a mistake on showing the historical disputed border as part of Nicaragua’s territory, even though it is legally part of Costa Rica. It shows, once again the interference of new technologies in International disputes. However a Google Maps’ Technician named Mary Jane Smith testified in favor of Nicaragua saying: “It's not a mistake. It's an advanced and new algorithm that overcomes the old treaties”. That sentence alone makes it hard to understand Nicaragua’s position, as the lawyer stated that those treaties settled the issue on behalf of them. The judges decided not to take in consideration Mary Jane’s testimony, choosing to rely on historical tradition treaties.
On opening speeches of the judges, it was a common sense that there is a border breach of Nicaragua behalf because of the Cañas-Jerez Treaty of 1858 that reassures Costa Rica’s sovereignty on the region. And even though there are no cartography evidences on both parties the judges already declared Nicaragua guilty for invading the territory of Island Calero. On the other hand, it is a consensus that a “soft penalty” has to be applied. The question is: should the ICJ make benign penalties for cases of clear invasion and social damage?
In this first session, the judges began to write a provisory measure basically telling all parts to stop their action on the region until they decide. With that being, Nicaraguan troops need to leave the Calero Island immediately and stop the construction of the channel to the Caribbean Sea. On the other hand, Costa Rica has to stop the construction of the highway in the San Juan River. Judge Sebutinde disagreed though, saying it was unfair to apply two penalties on Nicaragua and only one in Costa Rica.
Furthermore the judges received Nicaragua’s Army General’s testimony that asserted on the Cañas-Jerez Treaty saying that it does not set a border, just settle that the San Juan River belongs to Nicaragua but Costa Rica can use to Economic and Market ends. She concluded: “The treaty of limits did not determine the boundary lines, so we had the right to construct the channel, because of our sovereignty over the river itself ”.
This testimony changed the view of some of the Judges on the Provisional Measure changing into a milder decision on Nicaragua but there was no voting, leaving the session unconcluded