The Central American Court of Justice
or Court of Cartago
(1907–1918, 1962 to date) is an international court
established by five Central American
states. It was initially created by a treaty signed on December 20
at Washington, D.C.
, United States
; following its dissolution in 1918, it was re-created in 1962 as an action of the Organization of Central American States
Between November 14
, and December 20
, following a proposal made by Mexico
and the United States, five Central American nations – Costa Rica
, El Salvador
– took part in the Central American Peace Conference
in Washington, D.C.
The five nations, which had all previously been Spanish colonies had sought on numerous prior occasions, with great difficulty, to form a political alliance. The earliest attempt was the Federal Republic of Central America, and the most recent such effort had taken place 11 years earlier, with the founding of the Republic of Central America. On December 20 an agreement was reached and the five nations ended the Conference by signing a peace treaty, one aspect of which created the Central American Court of Justice (Corte de Justicia Centroamericana).
The signatories agreed that the convention creating the Court would remain in effect for ten years, beginning at the time of the last ratification.
All communications between the signatories were made through the government of Costa Rica. The Convention was ratified by the member states on the following dates:
- Nicaragua, February 15, 1908
- Costa Rica, February 28, 1908
- El Salvador, March 4, 1908
- Honduras, March 4, 1908
- Guatemala, March 12, 1908
The Court was composed of five judges, one each from each member state.
Operation of the first CACJ
For the period of its functioning the Court heard ten cases, five of which were brought by private individuals and declared inadmissible, and three of which were started by the Court's own initiative.
Dissolution of the first CACJ
The court operated for 10 years, until April 1918, from its headquarters in Costa Rica
, at which point it dissolved. Its members had sought without success from March 1917, when Nicaragua gave a notice of termination from the agreement, to continue the arrangement.
Several explanations for the treaty's failure exist:
- The court lacked an effective system of judicial procedure.
- The judges were not free to act independently of their respective governments.
- The court had been given a jurisdiction too broad to satisfy its member states.
Creation of the second Court
Following the end of World War II
, a new interest in integrating the Central American governments began. On October 14
, 33 years after the dissolution of the CACJ, the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua signed a new treaty creating the Organization of Central American States (Organización de Estados Centroamericanos
, or ODECA)
The following year, December 12, 1962, ODECA's charter was altered to create a new Central American Court of Justice (this time called the Corte Centroamericana de Justicia, or CCJ), without the time limitation of its previous incarnation.
Idle for nearly 30 years thereafter, the court changed shape in 1991 when Article 12 of the Protocol of Tegucigalpa created the Central American Integration System (Sistema de Integración Centroamericana, or SICA), and the union was joined by Panama (as a member state), and Belize (as an observer).
The CCJ today
The current mission of the CCJ is to promote peace in the region and unity between its member-states. Today's Court has jurisdiction to hear cases:
- between member States
- between a member state and a non-member state which agrees to the Court's jurisdiction
- between states and any natural or legal person who is a resident of any member state
- regarding the integration process between Central American Integration System's (SICA) organs and member states or natural or legal persons
The Court may also offer consultation to the Supreme Courts of the region.
As of July 2005, the CCJ has made 70 resolutions since hearing its first case in 1994.
- In 2005, the Court ruled that Nicaraguan congressional reforms, which took control of water, energy and telecommunications services away from President Enrique Bolaños were "legally inapplicable", possibly further inciting the Nicaraguan political crisis.