ICJ Finds Uruguay Breached Procedural, but Not Substantive, Obligations in Pulp Mill Case Brought by Argentina

The International Court of Justice announced its judgment in the Case Concerning Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v. Uruguay), in which it held that Uruguay had breached its obligations under the Statute of the River Uruguay to cooperate with Argentina and the Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay, as required prior to the authorization of development projects that could affect the River Uruguay, which runs through both Uruguay and Argentina.  Argentina argued, and the ICJ agreed, that Uruguay had failed to notify the Administrative Commission and Argentina before authorizing the construction of two pulp mills on the banks of the River Uruguay.

However, the Court also held that Uruguay had not breached its substantive obligations under the Statute of the River Uruguay, with regard to environmental pollution, by authorizing the construction of the mill.  The Court had precluded from its discussion Argentina’s allegations of noise pollution, visual pollution, and offensive odors caused by the mills, as falling outside the scope of the Statute.

The dispute began in 2003 and was brought to the ICJ in 2006.  The case has generated diplomatic tension between the two countries and raised the hopes of affected communities that the Court would declare Uruguay responsible for environmental pollution and order the Finnish plant to cease its operations. [ReutersYahoo, BBC]

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