Honduras takes dispute with Brazil to U.N. court

This content was published on October 29, 2009 - 17:11

By Aaron Gray-Block
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Honduras de facto government has started proceedings at the U.N. court in The Hague to stop Brazil giving refuge to ousted President Manuel Zelaya in its embassy in Tegucigalpa.
Brazil immediately disputed the move, saying that government had no standing to file it.
Zelaya has been in the embassy since last month following a military coup after he angered business leaders, the military and political rivals by moving Honduras closer to Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez.
In its application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to lodge a legal case against Brazil, the de facto Honduran government says Zelaya and others are using the embassy as a platform for political propaganda and threatening peace and public order.
Honduras requested the ICJ, or world court, declare that Brazil does not have the right to allow its embassy to be used to promote "manifestly illegal activities" by Honduran citizens.
It wants the court to order Brazil to stop providing refuge.
Brazil said the move has no legal foundation.
"The de facto Honduran government has no legitimacy to lodge a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice," a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Brasilia said.
The ICJ said the Honduran ambassador to the Netherlands had filed an application instituting proceedings against Brazil.
The ICJ said in its application with the court, lodged on Wednesday but made public on Thursday, Honduras said it reserves the right to claim reparation for any damage resulting from the actions of Brazil, its embassy and the Honduran persons taking refuge there.
Andre de Hoogh, senior lecturer in international law at Groningen University, said that if Brazil rejected Honduras' legitimacy, the ICJ may suspend a decision.
It could then initiate a separate phase of proceedings to decide jurisdiction and admissibility of the application.
"Whether the government of Honduras can represent Honduras as a state is a difficult point, precisely because it is in control of Honduras even though some quarters of the international community say they only recognise President Zelaya," De Hoogh said.
But Zelaya does not control Honduras so it is possible the ICJ could recognise that the interim government has effective control and rule its application admissible, De Hoogh said.
Such a ruling could take at least one to two years to be handed down.
In the request, the Honduras de facto government also said it might file a request for the "indication of provisional measures" if Brazil does not immediately end the disturbance.
If the ICJ rules it has jurisdiction to hear a case, the matter typically takes years to settle. But if a party also requests an "indication of provisional measures," the court's judges can make a swift provisional order.
(Additional reporting by Raymond Colitt, editing by Angus MacSwan)

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