After refusing to join the proceedings since 2018, Venezuela is finally participating in the border controversy case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after it filed an objection that has delayed the substantial hearing.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry said it received a letter from the Registrar of the ICJ, advising that the Government of Venezuela has submitted a Preliminary Objections to the admissibility of the case before the Court regarding the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela).
Guyana approached the World Court in 2018 seeking a final and binding judgment to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties as well as legal affirmation that Guyana’s Essequibo region, which contains much of the country’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.
The Spanish-Speaking nation had initially refused to participate in the proceedings and had even challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter. But in December 2020, the ICJ established that it has jurisdiction to hear the substantive case – something which Venezuela did not accept.
However, the Foreign Ministry, said Venezuela is now being forced to participate in the proceedings. It noted, “…by its action, the Venezuelan Government now joins the judicial process which Guyana had always urged it to do-a step that Guyana welcomes, confident of the validity of its position on the merits of the case.”
The Ministry further recognised that the Rules of Procedure of the ICJ allow for such an objection to be lodged and considered by the Court, and that, as a consequence, the proceedings on the merits of the case are suspended until the Court rules on the Preliminary Objections.
It was noted that the Guyana Government will submit its observations with dispatch as soon as the Court advises of the time by which it expects to receive them.
Nonetheless, the Foreign Ministry pointed out that, at all times, Guyana has steadfastly adhered to the rule of international law and the rules and procedures of the ICJ with regard to this matter, and will continue to do so.
“Observing that Venezuela had previously not recognized the jurisdiction of the Court to consider the case, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation also notes that, by submitting an objection at this advanced stage of the proceedings before the ICJ, the Venezuelan Government is patently engaging in an effort to delay the Court’s final judgment on the merits of the case,” the Ministry stated in the missive.
Only last month, President Dr Irfaan Ali reiterated his government’s commitment to pursuing the legal path in settling the border controversy between the two South American neighbours.
“Independence imposes [upon] us, the duty to safeguard Guyana’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty. On these issues, Guyanese must broker no division. We must continue to stand united in defending our motherland from external fronts.
“We will continue to marshal the best diplomatic efforts necessary to ensure respect for all our territorial space. We do not intend to deviate from the judicial path, which has been taken to address the controversy with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Our path to peace is paved with good intentions,” President Ali stated during his Independence Day Address in Region Two.
Back in March of this year, Guyana had submitted its written arguments for its memorial to the ICJ, which was a requirement by the court following its December 18, 2020 decision that it had the jurisdiction to hear the case against Venezuela.
“Guyana now looks to the Court’s judicial process and its settlement of the matter under the rule of law. This year sees the 56th anniversary of the 1966 Geneva Agreement. Guyana considers that the true commemoration of that Agreement is in contributing in good faith to the fulfilment of its true meaning and intent by participating fully in the current juridical process deriving from it. Hence the submission [March 8, 2022] to the International Court of Justice of Guyana’s Memorial on the Merits as required by the Court,” the Ministry had explained.
Guyana moved to the world court after exhausting all means of negotiation with Venezuela and the failed good offices process between the two South American neighbours.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, in January 2018, decided that the case should be settled by the ICJ after exercising the powers vested in him to decide how the controversy should be settled by the 1966 Geneva Agreement between Guyana, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom.
The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945, and began its activities in April 1946. The Court is composed of 15 Judges elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
The Spanish-speaking nation is laying claims to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in Essequibo and a portion of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in which almost 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past seven years.
President Ali has been using his platform at international forums to informed the world about Venezuela’s continued disregard for international norm in pushing its illegal claim to Guyana’s territory.
Simultaneously, Guyana had recommitted to maintaining bilateral relations with Venezuela. In fact, over the past week, Venezuela’s Ambassador to Guyana Carlos Amador Perez Silva has been meeting with various Cabinet Ministers including Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips.
On Tuesday, PM Phillips and the Venezuelan diplomat discussed ways of enhancing bilateral relations between the neighbouring countries. The Prime Minister indicated that Guyana is ready to improve relations, within the construct of respect for Guyana’s sovereignty.