Neighbors have been wrangling for years over a giant pulp millMonday, September 14, 2009
Argentina accuses Uruguay of int'l law breach
Argentina told the International Court of Justice that Uruguayan pollution of a border river was a grave infringement of Argentinean rights.
Argentina and Uruguay have been wrangling for years over a giant pulp mill sited on the Uruguay river, which divides the two South American nations. Argentina says it was not properly consulted.
"Uruguay has imposed harm on the river in the past and will in the future by the continued discharge of toxic substances," Argentina's lawyer told the 15-judge tribunal in The Hague.
Uruguay has defended the mill's construction nearly two years ago saying it provides jobs and boosts the local economy. It says the mill meets environmental standards.
The construction of two mills had been initially proposed, but plans for second mill have now been abandoned.
"We listened. We will respond. Next week will be our turn," said Carlos Mora Medero, Uruguay's ambassador to the Netherlands.
In a lawsuit lodged in 2006 with the ICJ, the court must decide whether Uruguay breached a 1975 bilateral treaty that said that on all issues regarding the water of the Uruguay river there must be consultations and agreement by both countries.
The site of the mill, directly across the river from the Argentinean city of Gualeguaychu, has soured relations.
Susana Ruiz Cerutti, legal adviser to Argentina's Foreign Ministry, said in the 20 months since the mill started operations, 44 million cubic metres of toxic effluent have been released into the river at a spot used for fishing, leisure and tourism.
Argentina said it was not opposed to Uruguay operating the mill, but questioned the choice of its location.
In July 2006, the ICJ provisionally ruled Uruguay did not have to suspend building the mills as there were insufficient grounds to merit such a decision.
Argentina had wanted a temporary halt while it considered if the building violated the 1975 treaty.
In January 2007, the court issued another provisional ruling, this time against a Uruguayan request to force Argentina to remove blockades set up by Argentinean environmental protestors on roads between the neighbouring states.
Uruguay had argued the blockades were strangling its economy and would cost it hundreds of millions of dollars.
The ICJ is holding 10 days of oral hearings this month and next and a final ruling is expected in 2010.