ICJ delivers judgment in Nicaragua v. Honduras 08 Oct 2007
The International Court of Justice has awarded Honduras sovereignty over four islands in the Caribbean Sea, and delineated its long-disputed maritime boundary with Nicaragua.

Course of the maritime boundary line between Nicaragua and Honduras. This image is taken from part of the larger image of Sketch-map No. 7 from page 91 of the Judgment.The International Court of Justice (ICJ), in its judgment of 8 October 2007 in the case concerning the Territorial and Maritime dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Honduras), has determined a single maritime boundary between the two countries and awarded sovereignty of four cays (islands) to Honduras.

In its judgment, the Court unanimously concluded that Honduras applied legislative and administrative control over the islands in question, which constituted a “modest but real display of authority”, and therefore that Honduras managed to establish sovereignty over the four islands.

The Court then ruled on the maritime delimitation. It found that no boundary existed along the 15th parallel on the basis of either uti possidetis juris or a tacit agreement between the Parties. The Court drew the boundary using a bisector, the line formed by bisecting the angle created by the linear approximations of coastlines. This bisector line was then adjusted in accordance with the 12-mile breadth of territorial sea around the four islands.

Given the unstable nature of the river mouth, the Court determined that the starting point of the maritime boundary be fixed three nautical miles out to sea. Finally, the Court instructed the Parties to negotiate the course of the line between the present endpoint of the land boundary and the starting point determined in the judgment.

Nicaragua had instituted proceedings at the ICJ against Honduras in 1999. It asked the Court to determine the course of the single maritime boundary between the areas of the territorial sea, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone relating to Nicaragua and Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. Nicaragua claimed that its maritime boundary with Honduras had never been delimited while Honduras claimed a traditionally recognised boundary already existed along the 15th parallel. In addition to the maritime boundary determination, Nicaragua made a specific request that the Court adjudge on sovereignty over islands located in the disputed area.

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Nicaragua v. Honduras

Nicaragua c. Honduras