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Court Watch Tracking Current Developments in International Law


International Court of Justice Rules on Peru- Chile Maritime Boundary


On January 27, 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a ruling establishing a new maritime boundary between Peru and Chile. The Court awarded Peru some additional maritime territory, but agreed with Chile’s submission re- garding the border’s starting point and left rich coastal fishing waters within Chile’s territory.


The delimitation dispute dates back to 1985, when Peru’s Foreign Minister Allen Wagner for- mally addressed the issue with Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaime del Valle. The following year, Peru’s Ambassador Juan Miguel Bakula Pa- tino met with Mr. del Valle in Santiago to handle a diplomatic note emphasizing the necessity of a maritime boundary treaty based upon a formal delimitation of marine spaces.


In 1997, Chile ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and established parallel 18º21’00” South as the proper maritime boundary between both States. In 2001, Peru rejected this interpretation before the United Nations, and in 2005 it passed a do- mestic bill recognizing the width of maritime do- main to be 200 miles. The disputed territory in- volves approximately 14,600 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. Whereas Peru maintains the mari- time boundary delimitation with Chile remained superfluous, Chile asserts it had no outstanding border issues with Peru.


On January 16, 2008, Peru formally submitted the dispute before the ICJ, requesting an equi- table division of maritime territory. In its submis- sion, Peru asserted the maritime boundary was never properly defined by treaty and should run southwest from its coastal border, at an equi- distant angle from both State coastlines. Chile


responded with assertions that the 1952 San- tiago Declaration and the 1954 Special Maritime Frontier Zone Agreement clearly established the maritime boundary westward, parallel to the equator.


In the Qatar v. Bahrain case, the ICJ recognized four steps in the marine delimitation process: (1) identifying the relevant coasts, and baselines; (2) determining whether there are any preexisting agreements relating to delimitation; (3) delimit- ing the territorial sea via the equidistance-special circumstances rule; and (4) delimiting the con- tinental shelf and exclusive economic zone by applying the equitable principle-relevant circum- stances rules.


Without any contentions regarding the relevant coasts and baselines, the Court’s first conten- tion is whether there is an agreed-upon maritime boundary or agreement. Article 74 of UNCLOS requires that States first attempt to reach an agreement on delimitation before bringing a case before the Court. Where a partial agreement ex- ists, the Court will take that agreement into con- sideration.


In the instant case, the Court examined three preexisting agreements: the 1947 Proclama- tions, the 1952 Santiago Declaration, and the 1954 Special Maritime Frontier Zone Agreement. First, the Court determined the language and provisional nature of the 1947 Proclamations pre- cluded an interpretation of the instrument as a shared understanding of maritime delimitation. Next, the Court found the 1952 Santiago Declara- tion did contain the requisite language to estab- lish a maritime boundary. Finally, the Court found that although the 1954 Special Maritime Frontier Zone Agreement recognizes a maritime bound- ary, the Agreement does not indicate when and by what means the boundary was agreed upon.


ILSA Quarterly » volume 22 » issue 4 » May 2014 5


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