Court condemns Costa Rica on San Juan River road
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On the morning of July 2, the Central American Court of Justice (CCJ) issued a unanimous ruling finding that Costa Rica had built the road along the southern banks of the San Juan River “without the studies and analysis demanded within the obligations imposed by regional and international law, avoiding the collaboration, mutual understanding and communication among the nations party to those agreements that should exist in matters of the environment and sustainable development.”

The southern bank of the river forms the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The Court called the road a “high risk project” which was “environmentally dangerous” and repeated its January 17 order that work on the road be stopped and the damage repaired. The CCJ noted that 160 kilometer long road put at risk the Central American Biological Corridor that maintains the “ecological equilibrium of flora and fauna that the State of Costa Rica is obliged to respect as the patrimony of all humanity.”



Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla immediately announced that her country rejected the ruling as “spurious and illegitimate” given that Costa Rica does not recognize the Court. She went on to say, “We have every right to doubt the objectivity of this court because it is located in Nicaragua and the presiding judge is Nicaraguan.” [The court’s location and presidency rotate every six months.] The CCJ is one of the organisms of the Central American Integration System (SICA) of which both Costa Rica and Nicaragua are members. Costa Rican officials indicated that they may consider the possibility of leaving SICA.


Nicaraguan environmentalist Kamilo Lara, leader of one of the organizations that brought the suit, said after hearing of the ruling, “We will be widening the breadth of our demands when we quantify the damages,” adding, “Costa Rica must pay” for destruction of the ecosystem in the zone. Meanwhile, another bridge spanning a San Juan River tributary collapsed on June 30th, the second collapse in ten days along the road.


The Costa Rican Administrative Environmental Tribunal began its investigations of environmental damages caused by the road in a visit to the area. The National System of Conservation Areas presented its reports on the damage to streams and biodiversity on the Costa Rican side of the river caused by the chopping down of trees. The San Jose newspaper La Nacion also reported that the companies that received the contracts to build the road owned no machinery and had no public works experience.

(El Nuevo Diario, July 2; Radio La Primerisima, June 29, July 1, 2; Informe Pastran, June 27, July 2; La Prensa, July 2)