Delimiting the Continental Shelf Beyond 200 Nautical Miles at the International Court of Justice: The Nicaragua v. Colombia Cases

21 Aug 2017

In both $\textit{Nicaragua v. Colombia}$ cases, the International Court of Justice upheld that international tribunals may delimit the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles prior to the establishment of the continental shelf’s outer limits. However, both the 2012 judgment on the merits in the first case, and the 2016 judgment on preliminary objections in the second case, raise a number of controversial issues. This article discusses the contentious aspects of these two judgments. First, it argues that the ICJ’s decisions should have more strongly upheld that overlapping entitlements are a necessary precondition to maritime delimitation both within and beyond 200 nautical miles, with reference to the evaluation of evidence of entitlement provided by the parties. Second, it examines the exceptional character of the Bay of Bengal cases, as well as the persuasiveness of the “practical impasse” argument invoked by Nicaragua.