Costa Rica drags Nicaragua to ICJ as territory row lingers

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Costa Rica dragged neighboring Nicaragua before the UN's highest court Monday, January 16, in the latest round of an international case of legal ping-pong involving a small slither of land between the two countries.

"Costa Rica today instituted proceedings against... Nicaragua with regard to a 'dispute concerning the precise definition of the boundary in the area of Los Portillos/Harbor Head Lagoon and the establishment of a new military camp by Nicaragua' on the beach of Isla Portillos," the International Court of Justice said.

San Jose's lawyers are asking the Hague-based court to "determine the precise location of the land boundary separating both ends of the Los Portillos/Harbor Head Lagoon sandbar from Isla Portillos," the ICJ said in a statement.

The latest legal salvo between the two central American neighbors follows a December 2015 ruling in which the ICJ handed Costa Rica sovereignty over a small patch of wetlands near the San Juan river – called the Isla Portillos by San Jose and Harbour Head by Managua.

But Costa Rica said since that ruling, Nicaragua has set up a new military camp on its territory in breach of the ICJ's previous ruling.

Costa Rica... "requests the Court to declare that Nicaragua must withdraw its military camp situated in Costa Rican territory and fully comply with the Court’s 2015 judgment," San Jose said.

Costa Rica at various times wrote to Managua to protest the military camp, while Nicaragua in fact made a new claim of sovereignty over "the entire stretch of coast abutting the Caribbean Sea between Harbor Head and the river’s mouth," it said.

"Given the factual and legal positions adopted by Nicaragua, the futility of further negotiations is apparent," Costa Rica said.

The fight first reached the ICJ in 2010 when Costa Rica complained Nicaragua's army had occupied a 3-square-kilometer (just over one square mile) block near the mouth of the river San Juan as it flows into the Caribbean.

Nicaragua maintained the territory historically belonged to it, and in a separate 2011 counter-claim to the ICJ argued that Costa Rica was causing environmental damage by building a road next to the waterway.

The case has since bounced back and forth in the ICJ – the UN's highest court founded in 1945 to rule on border and territorial disputes between nations. –