Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v. Uruguay)

The International Court of Justice is located at the Peace Palace, The HagueOn Thursday 4 May 2006, Argentina seised the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of a dispute between itself and Uruguay concerning alleged breaches by the latter of obligations incumbent upon it under the Statute of the River Uruguay. In its Application, Argentina charges the Government of Uruguay with having, in October 2003, “unilaterally authorised . . . the construction of a pulp mill near the town of Fray Bentos . . . without complying with the obligatory prior notification and consultation procedure” provided for by the 1975 Statute. Argentina stated that, despite its repeated protests, both directly to the Government of Uruguay and to the Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay, “the Uruguayan Government has persisted in its refusal to follow the prescribed procedures”. According to the Application, Uruguay has in fact “aggravated the dispute” by subsequently authorising the construction in the same area of a second pulp mill and of a port for that mill.

Argentina and Uruguay submitted a request for the indication of provisional measures, but on 23 January 2007 the requests were denied by the ICJ. The Court held that it was not convinced that the blockades risk prejudicing the rights which Uruguay claims from the Statute of the River Uruguay and that it had not shown that, were there such a risk, it would be imminent.

The public hearings before the ICJ were concluded on 2 October 2009.

The Judgment was delivered on 20 April 2010. The Court held that Uruguay should have informed Argentina about its plans to build the two pulp mills, in accordance with the treaty regulating the use of the river. It held that Uruguay had breached the 1975 treaty for failing to negotiate and for failing to inform the Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay (CARU), a commission established by the 1975 treaty. In particular Uruguay failed to comply with the obligation imposed on it by Article 7, first paragraph.

However, the Court found that Uruguay has not breached its substantive obligations under Articles 35, 36 and 41 of the 1975 Statute, for the protection of the environment provided for by the Statute of the River Uruguay by authorizing the construction and commissioning the mill. It said that there was not “evidence in the record to show that Uruguay has not acted with the requisite degree of due diligence or that the discharges of effluent from the Orion (Botnia) mill have had deleterious effects or caused harm to living resources or to the quality of the water or the ecological balance of the river since it started its operations in November 2007”.  Therefore the Court found that ordering the dismantling of the mill or ordering compensation would be an inappropriate remedy for a breach of a procedural obligation. The Court held that the pulp mill could therefore continue to operate.

Research/ miscellaneous (Research Document)
Page Tools
Share |