[Andrés Guzmán Escobari is a former Bolivian diplomat, a Professor at Universidad del Valle and Universidad de los Andes and an associate researcher for the German Foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The opinions expressed are strictly personal.]
A few days after Bolivia instituted proceedings against Chile before the International Court of Justice, Julian Ku wrote a post here on Opinio Juris entitled “Bolivia´s Ridiculously Weak ICJ Case against Chile”. His main claim? “This case looks like a sure loser on admissibility; it looks like it is going to be a major waste of time for the ICJ”.
In this post, I would like to offer a rebuttal to Mr Ku’s comments and to explain why Bolivia’s case is not only not a ‘sure loser’ but is reasonably strong. The case concerns Bolivia’s request that the Court declare and adjudge that “Chile has the obligation to negotiate with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean” because “Chile has breached the said obligation”. Specifically, for that reason, “Chile must perform the said obligation with good faith, promptly, formally, within a reasonable time and effectively, to grant Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean”.
Mr Ku develops two mains arguments to support his opinion: (1) that there is no compulsory ICJ jurisdiction under the Bogota Treaty; and (2) that there is no specific obligation on Chile to negotiate an agreement granting Bolivia an access to the Pacific Ocean because the language of the declarations made by Chilean authorities with the purpose of giving Bolivia back sovereign access to the sea were “non-obligatory”.