THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The International Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that it had jurisdiction over Bolivia’s demand that Chile negotiate access to the Pacific Ocean for the landlocked nation.
The president of the UN’s highest court, Ronny Abraham, read the ruling, in which the justices voted 14-2 against Chile’s claim that the tribunal did not have the right to hear the dispute.
Bolivia brought the case before the world court on April 24, 2013.
The ICJ said it was not being asked to declare if Bolivia does or does not have a right to sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean, but only to decide whether Chile has an obligation to negotiate said access in good faith and, if so, whether it has breached that obligation.
Chile said a 1904 peace treaty, signed 20 years after the end of the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific, delineated the Chile-Bolivia boundary and that the issue of territorial sovereignty remains governed by that pact.
Bolivia, however, successfully argued that Chile’s obligation to negotiate the sea access – deriving from “agreements, diplomatic practice and declarations” – exists independently of the 1904 treaty.
Bolivian President Evo Morales hailed the ruling as “enormously satisfying” and urged Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet to hold talks on the issue.
Bachelet, however, said the ICJ’s decision had no bearing on Chile’s territorial integrity and that “Bolivia hasn’t won anything” with the ruling.
Santiago and La Paz have maintained only consular relations since 1978, thanks to their quarrel over the 19th-century war that saw the Bolivians lose their entire Pacific coastline to Chile, which prevailed over the combined forces of Bolivia and Peru.