ICJ: Pulp Mills: Uruguay Breached Procedural, but not Substantive Obligations

2010-04-20, The Hague, The Netherlands. The Court rendered its judgment in Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v. Uruguay).  The Court found that

  • claims arising from noise, visual pollution, and bad odours produced by the Orion (Botnia) mill did not fall within its jurisdiction because they did not relate to the interpretation or application;
  • the Article of the 1975 Statute on the protection of aquatic environment through the adoption of rules and measures in accordance with international agreements did not incorporated international agreements, but only created an obligation on parties to legislate in conformity with these international agreements;
  • Uruguay breached the 1975 Statute by issuing initial environmental authorizations for each of the two mills and for the port terminal without prior notification of the Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay;
  • the provision, that allows one of the parties to bring a case before the ICJ following failed negotiations, should not be interpreted as preventing one of the parties from continuing the construction of the project;
  • the objective of “optimum and rational utilization” should be used to interpret the 1975 Statute, but it does not in itself create any rights or obligations. such objective is attained by balancing the need to use the river for economic/commercial activities and the obligation to prevent environmental damage;
  • Argentina did not prove that the level of harm caused to the river is above the level allowed by relevant standards, nor that Uruguay breached its obligation to coordinate the necessary measures through CARU to avoid changes to the ecological balance, nor that Uruguay’s eucalyptus planting operations had an impact on the quality of the water in the river;
  • it would not be appropriate to order the dismantling of the mill because Uruguay had no obligation to stop the construction of the mill after the negotiations failed.

 

Summary | Judgment | Opinio Juris |

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