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Nicaragua and Costa Rica have been arguing over rights to the San Juan River for nearly 150 years. The two central American countries signed a treaty in 1858 that established who could do what on the river, but they never really agreed on the meaning of the words. Well, now they have some clarity. On Monday, the U.N.’s International Court of Justice — also known as the World Court — set the rules for traffic on the river. According to Nicaragua’s attorney, Paul Reichler of Foley Hoag, the court’s decision, available here, affirms Nicaragua’s right to regulate Costa Rica’s commercial navigation and its right to provide exclusive police power on the San Juan. When we spoke with Reichler on Tuesday, he was at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., waiting for a flight to Guantanamo Bay where he had a hearing Wednesday as an attorney for one of the detainees. Reichler told us that Costa Rica brought this suit in 2005 in part to be able to provide police protection on the river, but the court unanimously rejected that request since Nicaragua has sovereignty over the river. “Nicaragua is extremely happy with this decision,” said Reichler. Costa Rica didn’t come away empty-handed in the court’s decision. The ICJ, for example, limited the restrictions Nicaragua can impose on Costa Rican ships, such as requiring passengers and tourists to obtain Nicaraguan visas. “We didn’t have any rights when we came into the court,” Costa Rica Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgar Ugalde told The Associated Press. The judges, he said, gave his country “around 70 percent of what we asked for.” This article first appeared on The Am Law Litigation Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.

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