Nicaragua Fined by UN’s Top Court in Dispute With Costa Rica

(CN) — The International Court of Justice fined Nicaragua more than $378,000 on Friday for its intrusion into Costa Rican territory involving ecologically sensitive, disputed wetlands.

Nicaragua’s military triggered the protracted legal battle when it excavated two channels on Costa Rican coastline, near the mouth of the San Juan river, in 2010 and 2013.

In addition to alleging environmental damage, Costa Rica sought compensation to replace standing timber and other raw materials.

The United Nations’ highest judicial body ruled today on two of Costa Rica’s cases, finding that Nicaragua should pay for the removal of close to 300 trees and 6.19 hectares of vegetation.

“These activities have significantly affected the ability of the two impacted sites to provide the above-mentioned environmental goods and services,” the 43-page opinion states. “It is therefore the view of the court that impairment or loss of these four categories of environmental goods and services has occurred and is a direct consequence of Nicaragua’s activities

Those categories are trees, other raw materials, gas regulation and air-quality services, and biodiversity.

“Wetlands are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems in the world,” the ruling states. “The interaction of the physical, biological and chemical components of a wetland enable it to perform many vital functions, including supporting rich biological diversity, regulating water régimes, and acting as a sink for sediments and pollutants.”

Setting the final boundaries between the two countries in a ruling neither can appeal, the 16-judge U.N. panel may prompt a Nicaraguan military base to retreat to their territory while finally putting an end to what the New York Times dubbed “The First Google Maps War.”

Representatives for the U.N. permanent missions of the two countries did not immediately respond to email requests for comment.

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