Before 1821, Central America was a colony of Spain under Spanish administration
1821 - independence was achieved by the Federal Republic of Central
1839 - the Federal Republic of Central America broke up, with Honduras
and El Salvador becoming independent states
land, island and maritime dispute between Honduras and El Salvador
erupts in 1969 Soccer war
a series of unsuccessful or partially successful dispute resolution
1972 agreement - 13 unresolved disputes
1980 Peace Treaty - 6 unresolved disputes
the JTC effort fails
thereafter, El Salvador and Honduras reached a "Special Agreement"
for the ICJ to resolve the remaining 6 disputed areas/boundaries
Legal - the ICJ agreed to hear the case in a 5-judge ICJ Chamber
How are the 6 territorial disputes to be resolved?
How is the uti possidetis principle to be applied here in the
absence of persuasive documentary evidence?
What is the nature of the uti possidetis principle?
How is the uti possidetis principle to be applied in the absence
of persuasive documentary evidence?
The ICJ applied the uti possidetis principle to the 6 disputes
IV. SALIENT PRINCIPLES
"The principle of uti possidetis is concerned as much with
title to territory as with the location of boundaries" (that
is, the principle can be applied to general territorial questions, not
simply those of boundaries per se)
"certainly a key aspect of the principle is the denial of the
possibility of terra nullius" (that is, once a colony becomes
an independent state, the new state's territory cannot be acquired by another
state through occupation of "no-man's land")
"uti possidetis is essentially a retrospective principle,
investing as international boundaries administrative limits intended originally
for quite different purposes" (implicit here: the approach to territorial
disputes draws upon old demarcations, divisions NOT intended to serve as
future state boundaries)
Lacking "persuasive documentary evidence of the location
of the boundary at the time the states gained their independence"
attached weigh to a geographical feature
invoked "equity infra legem" (the IL "general
principle" of "fairness") -- the Court adopted a boundary
originally proposed in 1869
considered the conduct of the parties in the period following independence
(how the new states acted then suggested how they then viewed the territorial
"possession backed by the exercise of sovereignty may be taken
as evidence confirming uti possidetis juris title"
practically the only way in which the uti possidetis juris could
find formal expression so as to be judicially recognized and determined"