October 15, 2009
Professor Steve McCaffrey and JSD student Maria Milanes-Murcia spent three weeks in The Hague, Netherlands, as part of a Uruguayan legal team representing that country in a dispute with Argentina before the International Court of Justice.
The case, Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay ( Argentina v. Uruguay), arose from Argentina’s environmental complaint against its South American neighbor’s Botnia pulp mill on the left bank of the river that separates the two countries. Argentina contends that the mill’s operation constitutes an internationally wrongful act and violates a 1975 treaty while Uruguay counters that the mill operates according to the highest European standards and that there has been no adverse effect on river waters.
McCaffrey and Milanes-Murcia flew to the Netherlands on September 11, 2009, and returned at the conclusion of the court’s public hearings on October 2. McCaffrey delivered two oral arguments during Uruguay’s testimony on September 22 at the Peace Palace and spoke again on October 1 during a rebuttal round. The court’s judgment will be rendered at a public sitting, possibly as early as January 2010.
“Fairly early on, Maria was made an official member of the Uruguayan delegation. She attended all meetings, accessed all court documents and was there each day in the courtroom,” said McCaffrey. “Her Spanish-language skills and legal knowledge were of great help in improving the communication between the Uruguayan members of the delegation and the English-speaking attorneys on the team.”
Milanes-Murcia, a Spanish environmental attorney who received her LLM in December, is pursuing her JSD in International Water Resources.
For McCaffrey, it was his second ICJ appearance in less than seven months. He was a member of a Nicaraguan legal team that opposed Costa Rica in a dispute over control of the San Juan River. That case, heard in March, resulted in a split-decision announced in July that left intact Nicaragua’s sovereignty over the river that forms part of the border between the two Central American countries.