ICJ rejects Bolivia ocean access claim against Chile

The International Court of Justice ruled (PDF) on Oct. 1 that landlocked Bolivia cannot force neighboring Chile to grant it access to a portion of its Pacific coast. "The Court is unable to conclude, on the basis of the material submitted to it, that Chile has the obligation to negotiate with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean," reads the judgement. Chile and Bolivia have long contested access to the Pacific. Bolivia controlled a portion of coast until 1904, when Chile successfully annexed the territory. The day has since been commemorated each year by lamenting Bolivians, and the nation has attempted to renegotiate coastal access for over 100 years.

The ICJ first agreed to hear this case in 2015 after both parties asserted that pursuant to the 1948 Pact of Bogotá, the World Court had jurisdiction in the dispute.

As part of his most recent bid to gain ocean access, Bolivian President Evo Morales suggested giving Chile an equal portion of Bolivian territory in exchange for some coastline, but Chile rejected the offer. In a press release aftr the ICJ ruling, Bolivia's government asserted that "the seas and oceans are the common heritage of humanity," and reaffirmed "the Bolivian desire to return to the sea."

From Jurist, Oct. 2. Used with permission.

Note: With the ocean access case now resolved, a dispute over water rights in the contested border region remains pending. Peru has its own border dipsute with Chile, also dating to the the 1879-1883 War of the Pacific. Chile's conquests in that war were officially recognized in a 1904 treaty with Bolivia, and a 1929 treaty with Peru. The day of the 1904 treaty, March 23, is commemorated as the "Day of the Sea" in Bolivia.

Image via Stratfor