WikiLeaks: Chile concerned that court rule in The Hague will favor Peru


By Jorge Riveros-Cayo

WikiLeaks: Chile fears court rule in The Hague will favor Peru
Peru’s foreign minister, José Antonio García Belaunde, with Peru’s agent for the maritime dispute against Chile, Allan Wagner. (Photo: El Comercio)

A new WikiLeaks cable, undisclosed Friday, reveals Chile’s concern and fear that the International Court of Justice in The Hague could eventually rule in favor of Peru over a maritime dispute, reported El Comercio.

The cable numbered 139497 and dated January 31, 2008 – 15 days after Peru presented a lawsuit against Chile in The Hague – states that a counselor in the Chilean embassy in Lima during Michelle Bachelet’s administration, expressed concern that the court would "grant concessions to Peru" after a unanimous decision in December "to adjudicate a similar maritime dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua."

"[The counselor] said that his government had to publicly voice its opposition to the Government of Peru’s actions, but predicted that the furor would soon die down… Chile’s Ambassador to Peru Christian Barros, who was called back to Santiago for consultations after the GOP submitted its paperwork in The Hague, has since returned to Lima," says the cable.

"That decision could effectively invalidate a bilateral agreement demarcating the territory," said the Chilean official, "on the grounds that only a full treaty can make such demarcations." This argument could provide a “small window” for Peru’s contention that the fishing agreements signed with Chile in 1952 and 1954 are “legally sufficient to settle the boundary.”

Peru and Chile signed two fishing agreements in 1952 and 1954 that Chile sustains resolved the sea border dispute with its neighbor. Peru, by the contrary, says that the agreements were fishery activity regulations but defined maritime limits.

The Hague’s previous rulings

Two cases seen by the court in The Hague, between Colombia and Nicaragua, and between Honduras and Nicaragua, set legal precedents that can be eventually compared and applied to the maritime border dispute held between Peru and Chile.

“We were waiting those rulings from International Court of Justice in order to present our lawsuit against Chile to The Hague,” said a Peruvian high-ranking official from the ministry of foreign affairs to El Comercio. In other words, Peru has these legal precedents that strongly suggest that the court could rule favorably to Peru.

In the first case, a territorial and maritime dispute between Colombia versus Nicaragua (December 13, 2007) over the sovereignty of the islands San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, the court says in clause 120, “Consequently, after examining the arguments presented by the Parties and the material submitted to it, the Court concludes that the 1928 Treaty and 1930 Protocol did not effect a general delimitation of the maritime boundary between Colombia and Nicaragua.”

The second case, also a territorial and maritime dispute between Honduras and Nicaragua (October 8, 2007), the court suggested in clause 253 that, "the establishment of a permanent maritime boundary is a matter of grave importance and agreement is not easily to be presumed. A de facto line might in certain circumstances correspond to the existence of an agreed legal boundary or might be more in the nature of a provisional line or of a line for a specific, limited purpose, such as sharing a scarce resource. Even if there had been a provisional line found convenient for a period of time, this is to be distinguished from an international boundary."

The jurisprudence exposed by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, clearly  supports the Peruvian position versus Chile’s arguments that the fishery agreements had settle the maritime border.