Carl Greenidge

Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge says the government is diligently working to prepare its case on the Venezuela border controversy for the World Court secure in the knowledge that Guyana’s western neighbour will have to comply with the ruling of the international legal body.

“It’s an international treaty and you are obliged under the UN framework itself to honour treaty obligations and to honour the international law,” Greenidge said yesterday.

Speaking with members of the media following the opening of a consultation on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at the Pegasus Hotel, Greenidge explain-ed that Cabinet has not had the time to reflect on the implications of the decision of United Nations Secretary-General (SG), António Guterres but that his ministry has prepared a report for their consideration.

After 27 years of the Good Offices process the SG has recommended that the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy be referred to International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court.

“We have been preparing for this moment like good boy scouts but it is not straightforward. We could not anticipate all the options the SG could’ve identified… this one which is the clearest and most unambiguous will take time,” Greenidge noted adding that the immediate work has already begun with the ministry, its advisory team and lawyers having spent all Sunday preparing a report for Cabinet’s consideration.

The minister explained that Government has to decide how it will approach the court and this decision will be arrived at after further reflection and consultation with the UN. Meanwhile his team has “mapped out the broad options; the issues that needed attention and those for which cabinet needs to give policy guidance. During the course of the week that report will be presented and Cabinet will be asked to make decisions on the legal team, issues to do with time and how exactly it will treat with the court” among others.

Greenidge stressed that the Good Offices process as envisioned in the 1966 Geneva Agreement has been completed as have all other attempts by the UN to utilize other forms of resolution prior to the court.

“Within the life of the Geneva Agreement all its mechanisms have been exhausted and we are now moving to the one chosen by the SG,” he repeatedly stressed.

He explained that the “continued Good Offices” process mentioned in the SG’s letter on the matter is a reference to the Good Offices process offered within the framework of the UN for any dialogue between states.

Guterres had noted that the two states could benefit from the continued good offices of the UN through a complementary process “established on the basis of the powers of the Secretary-General under the Charter of the United Nations.” These, Greenidge explained are different from the powers assigned to the SG under the Geneva Agreement.

Meanwhile, the Minister has said that the question of whether Guyana can approach the court in the absence of Venezuela’s participation is not valid.

“The question of Guyana going alone is a very strange one. The SG has said this is a matter for the court. The court is a forum at which you can each represent yourself…it is not my business as to who else is there,” he said, adding that the issue to be resolved by the court is whether the arbitral award is null and void.

“For as long as there is any doubt as to the status of the treaty that we signed in 1899 and if somebody/ country says this treaty is not valid the appropriate body to decide on this validity is the court,” he stressed.

Advisory opinion

Questioned about whether Guyana would be satisfied with an “advisory opinion” from the World Court Greenidge said he was not a lawyer but even an advisory opinion would be a comfort to the government and investors.

“An advisory opinion will say this Treaty is still in existence; nothing has come to displace it. That is fine… It solves our problem as regards perception and other peoples understanding of our rights and our borders and our sovereignty,” he said adding that Guyana is not asking the court to mark boundaries.

“That’s not the issue… the issue is simply an allegation made by Venezuela in 1962 that a treaty they had honoured for 61 years was null and void” as such a court ruling would be ‘very comforting because it is not for a country to decide unilaterally what are its obligations and the world’s obligations. You are in a community. You are not an island as a country. You can say whatever you like but you cannot pronounce on the law which is an international one; in other words the law that we are making reference to is internationally fashioned; it is not a Venezuelan law or a Guyanese law…once there is a pronouncement as to the standing of a treaty and, this in particular, we are fine. That is very comforting”.

According to its statute as explained on its website the World Court is able to entertain two types of cases those which are contentious or advisory proceedings.

Only States (States Members of the United Nations and other States which have become parties to the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions) may be parties to contentious cases.

Article 35, paragraph 1, of the Statute provides that the Court shall be open to the States parties to the Statute, and Article 93, paragraph 1, of the Charter of the United Nations provides that all Members of the United Nations are ipso facto parties to the Statute. Both Guyana and Venezuela are members of the United Nations.

Specific jurisdiction may also be established by entering into a special agreement to submit the dispute to the Court; by virtue of a jurisdictional clause, i.e. as parties to a treaty containing a provision whereby, in the event of a dispute of a given type or disagreement over the interpretation or application of the treaty, one of them may refer the dispute to the Court; through the reciprocal effect of declarations made by them under the Statute whereby each has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory in the event of a dispute with another State having made a similar declaration.

Advisory proceedings however are open solely to five organs of the United Nations and to 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations family or affiliated organizations. Advisory proceedings are concluded by the delivery of the advisory opinion at a public sitting.

These opinions are advisory in that unlike the Court’s judgments, they have no binding effect. The requesting organ, agency or organization remains free to give effect to the opinion by any means open to it, or not to do so.

Certain instruments or regulations can, however, provide beforehand that an advisory opinion by the Court shall have binding force.

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