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Border and Transborder Armed Actions (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica)

Overview of the case

On the same day, 28 July 1986, Nicaragua instituted proceedings against Costa Rica and Honduras, respectively, alleging various violations of international law for which the two States bore legal responsibility, particularly on account of certain military activities directed against the Nicaraguan authorities by the contras operating from their territory.

In the former case, Nicaragua proceeded to file its Memorial on the merits on 10 August 1987. Subsequently, by a communication dated 12 August 1987, Nicaragua, referring to an agreement signed on 7 August 1987 at Guatemala City by the Presidents of the five States of Central America (the “Esquipulas II” Agreement), declared that it was discontinuing the judicial proceedings instituted against Costa Rica. Costa Rica did not object to the discontinuance, and the case was removed from the General List by an Order of the President dated 19 August 1987.

In the latter case, Honduras informed the Court that in its view the Court had no jurisdiction to deal with the case and, after a meeting with the President, the Parties agreed that the questions of jurisdiction and admissibility would be dealt with at a preliminary stage of the proceedings. Once the Parties had filed their written pleadings and taken part in hearings devoted to those questions, the Court delivered its Judgment in the case on 20 December 1988. Nicaragua had relied, as the basis of the jurisdiction of the Court, both on Article XXXI of the Inter-American Treaty for the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes (known as the “Pact of Bogotá”) of 1948 and on the declarations of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court made by the Parties under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute. The Court found that the Pact of Bogotá conferred jurisdiction upon it. It dismissed the two arguments asserted successively by Honduras in that regard, namely that Article XXXI of the Pact had to be supplemented by a declaration of acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction or that it could be so supplemented but need not be. The Court found that the first argument was incompatible with the actual terms of Article XXXI. With regard to the second argument, the Court had to consider the divergent interpretations of Article XXXI that were proposed by the Parties, and set aside the interpretation of Honduras according to which, inter alia, effect should be given to the reservations to Honduras’s acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Court that had been introduced into its declaration of 1986. On that point, the Court found that the commitment in Article XXXI of the Pact was independent of the declarations of acceptance of its jurisdiction.

The Court moreover rejected the four objections raised by Honduras to the admissibility of the Application, of which two had a general character and two were derived from the Pact of Bogotá. Subsequently, and after the proceedings on the merits had been initiated and Nicaragua had filed its Memorial, and after the Court, at the request of the Parties, had postponed the date for the fixing of the time-limit for the presentation of the Counter-Memorial of Honduras, the Agent of Nicaragua, in May 1992, informed the Court that the Parties had reached an out-of-court agreement and did not wish to go on with the proceedings. On 27 May 1992, the Court made an Order recording the discontinuance of the proceedings and directing the removal of the case from the General List.


This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.

Institution of proceedings

Written proceedings

Memorial of Nicaragua

10 August 1987
Available in:
English

Orders

Order of 21 October 1986

Fixing of time-limits: Memorial and Counter-Memorial
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 21 July 1987

Extension of time-limits: Memorial and Counter-Memorial
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Order of 19 August 1987

Removal from list
Procedure(s): Discontinuance
Available in:
English French Bilingual

Press releases

Press release 1986/12

3 September 1986
Border and Transborder Armed Actions (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica) - Costa Rica appoints an Agent
Available in:
English French

Press release 1986/13

24 October 1986
Border and Transborder Armed Actions (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica) - Fixing of the time-limits for the filing of the initial written pleadings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1987/18

22 July 1987
Border and Transborder Armed Actions (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica) - Extension of time-limits for the filing of written pleadings
Available in:
English French

Press release 1987/19

12 August 1987
Border and Transborder Armed Actions (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica) - Request for discontinuance
Available in:
English French

Press release 1987/21

19 August 1987
Border and Transborder Armed Actions (Nicaragua v. Costa Rica) - Removal of the case from the Court's list
Available in:
English French

Correspondence

Correspondence

28 July 1986
Correspondence
Available in:
English French