En la disputa entre Argentina y Uruguay sobre la instalación de las papeleras en el Río Uruguay, ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia (se pueden ver el fallo completo, los votos en disidencia y las opiniones separadas de cada Juez, aquí), nos interesa destacar la muy interesante -y en nuestra opinión, excelente- disidencia de los Magistrados Bruno SIMMA y Awn Shawkat AL-KHASAWNEH.
El voto en disidencia hace hincapié en tres cuestiones sumamente relevantes:
1) La importancia de los HECHOS y de la PRUEBA en un caso de derecho. En su voto en disidencia, los Jueces SIMMA y AL-KHASAWNEH critican la pasividad de la mayoría de la CIJ a la hora de reunir y evaluar la prueba, reconociendo que la Corte no está capacitada por sí misma para evaluar y sopesar evidencia científica compleja aportada por las partes, y que para ello necesita la asistencia de expertos independientes (lo cual, no se hizo en el caso). Además, critican que en estos casos científicos complejos se utilice el anacrónico estándar de que "quien alega, tiene la carga de la prueba".
2) La relevencia del PRINCIPIO PRECAUTORIO en materia ambiental. Señalan los jueces que en este tipo de disputas la lógica del proceso judicial retrospectivo y compensatorio es inadecuada, en especial considerando "el carácter irreversible del daño ambiental".
3) La interrelación entre las obligaciones procedimentales y las sustanciales. Los Magistrados ponen de resalto que, en cuestiones ambientales, generalmente los acuerdos "sustanciales" están basados en principios generales que muchas veces se encuentran en contradicción. Por tal motivo, dicen, cobran gran relevancia las obligaciones "procedimentales", que se convierten en esenciales a la hora de discernir cuándo se ha cometido una violación -o no- a una obligación sustanciales. Teniendo en cuenta lo anterior, los Jueces opinan que no puede ser aceptada fácilmente la conclusión de la mayoría de la CIJ, según la cual el incumplimiento de obligaciones procedimentales "no tuvo ningún efecto en el cumplimiento de las obligaciones sustanciales".
A continuación, algunos párrafos textuales de esta excelente disidencia.
JOINT DISSENTING OPINION OF JUDGES AL-KHASAWNEH AND SIMMA
I. A MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO COPE WITH SCIENTIFIC UNCERTAINTY IN A STATE-OF-THE-ART MANNER
4. The Court on its own is not in a position adequately to assess and weigh complex scientific evidence of the type presented by the Parties. To refer to only a few instances pertinent for our case, a court of justice cannot assess, without the assistance of experts, claims as to whether two or three-dimensional modelling is the best or even appropriate practice in evaluating the hydrodynamics of a river, or what role an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler can play in such an evaluation. Nor is the Court, indeed any court save a specialized one, well-placed, without expert assistance, to consider the effects of the breakdown of nonylphenolethoxylates, the binding of sediments to phosphorus, the possible chain of causation which can lead to an algal bloom, or the implications of various substances for the health of various organisms which exist in the River Uruguay. This is surely uncontroversial: the task of a court of justice is not to give a scientific assessment of what has happened, but to evaluate the claims of parties before it and whether such claims are sufficiently well-founded so as to constitute evidence of a breach of a legal obligation.
5. In so doing, however, the Court is called upon "to assess the relevance and the weight of the evidence produced in so far as is necessary for the determination of the issues which it finds it essential to resolve" (S. Rosenne, The Law and Practice of the International Court of Justice, 1920-2005, Vol. III, 4th ed., 2006, p. 1039). Thus, it is the method pursued by the Court in this case which is problematic. The Court here has been content to hear the arguments of the Parties, ask a few token questions, and then disappear and deliberate in camera, only to emerge with terse, formalist replies as to whether there have been violations of the substantive obligation to prevent pollution embodied in Article 41 of the 1975 Statute.
13. Quite aside from academic criticism, so long as the Court persists in resolving complex scientific disputes without recourse to outside expertise in an appropriate institutional framework such as that offered under Article 50 of the Statute, it willingly deprives itself of the ability fully to consider the facts submitted to it and loses several advantages of such recourse: the interaction with experts in their capacity of experts and not as counsel (see para. 6, supra); the advantage of giving the parties a voice in establishing the manner in which those experts would have been used, a chance for the parties to review the Court’s choice of experts (and for which subject-matter experts were needed); and the chance for the parties to comment on any expert conclusions emerging from that process. It would also have given the Court the opportunity of combining the rigour of the scientific community with the requirements of the courtroom — a blend which is indispensable for the application of the international rules for the protection of the environment and for other disputes concerning scientific evidence (Rosenne, "Fact-Finding", op. cit., p. 245).
II. A MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO APPROACH AN ENVIRONMENTAL DISPUTE IN A FORWARD-LOOKING AND PROSPECTIVE MANNER
22. For the Court, differently from the standard discharge of its responsibilities under Article 60, the procedure of Article 12 implies that it has to take a forward-looking, prospective approach, engage in a comprehensive risk assessment and embrace a preventive rather than compensatory logic when determining what this risk might entail. This logic carries with it particular cogency in the realm of environmental law. As the Court itself has proclaimed elsewhere, "in the field of environmental protection, vigilance and prevention are required on account of the often irreversible character of damage to the environment and of the limitations inherent in the very mechanism of reparation of this type of damage" (Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary/Slovakia), Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1997, p. 78, para. 140).
24. Article 12 is the natural seat of these considerations and concerns in the 1975 Statute. It is thus, given the time of its conclusion, a truly remarkable and highly characteristic feature of the Statute and reflects its innovative and progressive character. In its rejection of the philosophy of fait accompli, it offers a paramount example of how to entrench prospective, preventive reasoning at the institutional level in the assessment of risks from the authorization process onwards. In particular, the preventive assessment of risk is particularly needed in the crucial and ever-more important field of environmental protection. Acknowledging the often "irreversible character of damage to the environment" (see supra, para. 22) is a first important step to make. Beyond this, the Court must remain aware, when confronted with challenges of risk of environmental pollution and endangerment of ecosystems, of the inherent weaknesses and flaws of the traditional retrospective judicial process and its compensatory logic. Article 12 of the 1975 Statute clearly transcends this narrow framework. Nonetheless, the majority seems almost unanimously to have assumed that the Court is acting under Article 60 of the 1975 Statute, and has decided on that basis.
III. A MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO CLARIFY THE INTERRELATION BETWEEN PROCEDURAL AND SUBSTANTIVE OBLIGATIONS
26. A final observation: in matters related to the use of shared natural resources and the possibility of transboundary harm, the most notable feature that one observes is the extreme elasticity and generality of the substantive principles involved. Permanent sovereignty over natural resources, equitable and rational utilization of these resources, the duty not to cause significant or appreciable harm, the principle of sustainable development, etc., all reflect this generality. The problem is further compounded by the fact that these principles are frequently, where there is a dispute, in a state of tension with each other. Clearly in such situations, respect for procedural obligations assumes considerable importance and comes to the forefront as being an essential indicator of whether, in a concrete case, substantive obligations were or were not breached. Thus, the conclusion whereby non-compliance with the pertinent procedural obligations has eventually had no effect on compliance with the substantive obligations is a proposition that cannot be easily accepted. For example, had there been compliance with the steps laid down in Articles 7 to 12 of the 1975 Statute, this could have led to the choice of a more suitable site for the pulp mills. Conversely, in the absence of such compliance, the situation that obtained was obviously no different from a fait accompli.
28. In conclusion, we regret that the Court in the present case has missed what can aptly be called a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the international community its ability, and preparedness, to approach scientifically complex disputes in a state-of-the-art manner.
(Signed) Awn Shawkat AL-KHASAWNEH.
(Signed) Bruno SIMMA.