“It’s an international source of water, as both sides have now agreed to,” said American judge Joan E. Donoghue, who serves as the court’s president. Initially, Bolivia refused this designation because international law required international watercourses to be managed cooperatively.
Chile brought the claim to the Hague-based court in 2016, arguing that Bolivia had violated international water law by blocking the river’s flow. During hearings in April, Bolivia claimed the waterway was not a river at all, but a series of underground springs built on the ground built by Chile.
The 1997 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Water requires countries whose borders intersect major waterways to share natural resources equitably.
During the past six years of litigation, the two countries have significantly narrowed the scope of their disagreement through diplomatic efforts, eventually agreeing on all but a few minor technical points.
Chile asked Bolivia to give advance notice of certain activities on the waterway, but the court rejected this request, arguing that there was no basis in international law.
Chile said Thursday’s ruling was a victory.
Ximena Fuentes, Chile’s deputy foreign minister, told reporters after the hearing: “The court now only reiterates the fact that Bolivia has accepted everything Chile has to offer.
Bolivia’s legal team left the court without commenting on the ruling.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric said after the ruling: “It is recognized that Chile’s historical and current use of the waters of the Silala River is consistent with the fair and equitable use established by International law.
“Our country can rest easy with this court ruling,” he said. “We have had the legal certainty we were looking for and the issues in dispute have been resolved.”
Bolivian President Luis Arce said in a Twitter post that “Bolivia has settled its dispute with a brother country.” The International Court of Justice’s ruling “affirms our rights to the waters of Silala and our sovereignty over the dismantling of the man-made canals,” he wrote.
Bolivian Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta said “the ruling gives us important certainty.” The court “made it clear that Bolivia has a right to canal excavation” that was carried out in “its territory” to improve water flows and “restore wetlands degraded” by the works. hey, Mayta said.
The Court called on the two countries, which have had no diplomatic relations since 1978, to cooperate in managing the Silala Sea. Chile and Bolivia should “conduct consultations continuously, in a spirit of cooperation,” said presiding judge Donoghue.
This is the second time the two Latin American neighbors have brought the dispute to the International Court of Justice. In 2018, judges sided with Chile, arguing that the country was under no legal obligation to grant its landlocked neighbor sea access.
Bolivia was not always cut off from the ocean. The country lost part of its coastline to Chile in the war of 1879-1883 and has been unhappy with the outcome ever since.