World Court invites Venezuela to meeting on border controversy

The World Court in The Hague, the Netherlands

In a little over a week, the question of whether Venezuela will accept the jurisdiction of the World Court on the border controversy with Guyana will be definitively answered.

In a press statement issued yesterday, the Venezuelan Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs, announced that on June 4, 2018, it received correspondence from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), informing that the President of the Court will receive the Representatives of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, on June 18, 2018 in order to know the points of view of the parties regarding procedural issues in Georgetown’s move for a juridical settlement of the controversy.

The invitation by the World Court to Caracas will be seen by Georgetown as an acceptance by the ICJ of its jurisdiction in this matter, a question which has been raised in various circles here.

According to the Ministry, the Venezuelan government in response, reiterated “its firm willingness to defend the territorial integrity of our country based on the 1966 Geneva Agreement”.

This response it explains is “faithful to its historical position and in accordance with the Bolivarian Diplomacy of Peace” that the 1966 agreement governs the territorial controversy over the Essequibo.

“Venezuela will exercise all the actions before the corresponding legal, diplomatic and political instances, privileging the high national interest and the permanent vindication of the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Venezuelan people…,” the statement added.

On March 29, Guyana filed an application with the ICJ requesting that it confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the 1899 Arbitral Award on the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela.

The application followed the decision by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to choose the ICJ as the next means of resolving the controversy following Venezuela’s contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 was null and void.

In its application to the Holland-based court, Guyana highlighted that Venezuela had for more than 60 years “consistently recognized and respected the validity and binding force of the 1899 Award and the 1905 Map agreed by both sides in furtherance of the Award”.

Venezuela had only altered its position formally in 1962 as the United Kingdom was making final preparations for the independence of British Guiana and “had threatened not to recognize the new State, or its boundaries, unless the United Kingdom agreed to set aside the 1899 Award and cede to Venezuela all of the territory west of the Essequibo River, amounting to some two-thirds of Guyana’s territory”.

Guyana’s application also notes that while Venezuela has never produced any evidence to substantiate its belated repudiation of the 1899 Award, “it has used it as an excuse to occupy territory awarded to Guyana in 1899, to inhibit Guyana’s economic development and to violate Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights”.

It further asserted that the UN Secretary-General’s authority to choose the ICJ – based in The Hague – as a means of resolving the controversy is based on the Geneva Agreement of 1966 which was negotiated just before Guyana gained independence.

On January 30th 2018, Guterres concluded that the Good Offices process which the two countries had engaged in for almost 30 years had failed to achieve a solution to the controversy and therefore chose the ICJ as the next means of settlement.

The application was handed over to Registrar of the ICJ, Philippe Couvreur by Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge who will function as Guyana’s Agent in the proceedings before the court.

One day later on May 30 Venezuela rejected the referral dubbing any decision by the court as “unenforceable.” Instead that country proposed a restart of diplomatic contact to reach a resolution.

The Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs stated that Guyana’s resort to a judicial settlement is both “unacceptable” and “unenforceable” and it noted that it does not recognise the jurisdiction of the court as binding.

It said it had sent a Diplomatic Note to Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 28th, 2018, making it aware that Venezuela does not acknowledge the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation that a judicial settlement be used to peacefully settle the border controversy between the two countries.

Venezuela has argued that in making the recommendation, the Secretary-General exceeded the powers granted by the figure of Good Offices–mutually agreed upon by the parties–and contravenes the spirit, intent and purpose of the Geneva Agreement of February 17th, 1966.

It has also noted that it expressly objects to judicial settlement as a means for peaceful resolution of the controversy since it claims that it violates the preamble of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which strictly establishes that the issue must be “amicably settled in a mutually acceptable manner.”

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