Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The International Court of Justice ruled today that Uruguay breached its treaty with Argentina when it began to build pulp mills on the banks of the River Uruguay. The Court ruled (by a vote of 14 to 1) that Uruguay breached procedural obligations under a 1975 treaty by failing to inform and negotiate with Argentina during the planning phase before the mills could be build. But the Court also ruled partially in favor of Uruguay, holding that the mill that has already been built in the Uruguayan town of Fray Bentos can continue operations and that Uruguay owes no compenstaion to Argentina for any impact to its tourism or agriculture.
Argentina filed suit against Uruguay in 2006, alleging that pollution from the mills will cause serious environmental damage and that they were being erected in breach of the 1975 border treaty. One mill was constructed near the Uruguayan town of Fray Bentos but the second mill is yet to be built.
The judges also voted by 11 to three that Uruguay did not breach its substantive obligations regarding the environment under a separate section of the 1975 treaty, known as the Statute of the River Uruguay. Those obligations include ensuring that the management of soil and woodland does not impair the quality of the river’s waters and coordinating measures to avoid changes in the ecological balance of the area.
The court also dismissed all other claims by the two countries, saying that dismantling the mill “would not constitute an appropriate remedy” given that Uruguay breached no substantive obligations under the treaty. It also found it could not uphold Argentina’s claim for compensation nor a request that Uruguay give guarantees that in future it will not prevent the treaty from being applied.
Click here to read the judgment. The cover page is in French but the rest of the 85-page document is in English.
(Adapted from a UN Press Release).