The United Nations' International Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that it will hear a case presented against Chile by landlocked Bolivia as it seeks to oblige its Andean neighbor to negotiate access to the Pacific Ocean, which Bolivia lost to Chile in the 1879-83 War of the Pacific.
Bolivia had asked the court in 2013 to order Chile — which lies between Bolivia and the Pacific — to negotiate over Bolivia's claim to at least part of a strip of coastline. Chile responded that the court had no jurisdiction, arguing in part that a 1904 peace treaty between the two countries settled their borders.
The ICJ rejected Chile's claim on Thursday, meaning the case can now be heard, a process likely to take many months. The proceedings, which are years away from a final decision, will continue.
“The matters in the dispute are not matters already settled by arrangements between the parties … or governed by treaties in force,” Presiding Judge Ronny Abraham of France said, reading the 14-2 decision by the international panel of judges in The Hague.
Minutes after the court's decision was announced, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said, “We remain convinced that Bolivia's claim lacks merit because it confuses rights with aspirations, and it completely distorts the history between Chile and Bolivia.”
Bolivia’s court claim is based on a series of bilateral talks held between the two nations in the 1970s, when the subject of access to the Pacific was discussed. According to Bolivia, the fact that Chile debated the subject during these talks means that it recognizes there is a dispute.
Chile, in turn, points to the 1904 pact as a defining treaty, and it argues that Bolivia already enjoys free territorial transit of its good through Chile and free port services.
Although the case could last several years, ICJ rulings are final and binding.
With wire services