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Ecuador and Colombia go to court over crop-spraying

On 31 March 2008, Ecuador seised the International Court of Justice in a dispute with Colombia regarding alleged aerial spraying of toxic herbicides over Ecuadorian territory.

Relations between Ecuador and Colombia have been somewhat strained in recent months. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were cut following a border incursion by Colombian troops who mounted an attack against FARC rebels located in Ecuadorian territory. For a while it looked like the region may be heading for armed conflict although tensions over the affair eventually eased. That incident was criticised by an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States which adopted a resolution rejecting Colombia’s actions which it said “were carried out without the knowledge or prior consent of the Government of Ecuador.”

The latest transborder dispute between Ecuador and Colombia centres on allegations of crop spraying by Colombia as part of its counter-narcotics strategy. Ecuador claims that “the spraying has caused serious damage to people, to crops, to animals, and to the natural environment on the Ecuadorian side of the border” and it calls for Colombia to indemnify it in respect of any loss or damage caused thereby. The submission of the dispute to the International Court appears to be a turn for the worse as press reports in January suggested that the two countries had reached a deal over the dispute.

Ecuador relies upon Article XXXI of the 1948 American Treaty on Pacific Settlement (the so-called Pact of Bogotá) and Article 32 of the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances for the jurisdictional basis of its claims. This application is one of several cases pending before the Court which have been brought, at least in part, on the basis of the Pact of Bogotá. Other such cases include the maritime dispute between Chile and Peru, the territorial and maritime dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia, and the dispute concerning navigational rights between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

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