International Court of Justice to Hear Guyana/Venezuela Border Controversy Next Month

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Wednesday February 12, 2020 – The border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela is set to go before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) next month.

The ICJ has scheduled a hearing for the week of March 23, on the controversy arising from Venezuela’s contention that the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 establishing the boundary with Guyana is null and void.

Guyana will submit its oral pleadings as to why the Court – which the case is before for a final and binding resolution – was properly vested with jurisdiction by the United Nations Secretary-General.

Venezuela has so far taken the position that the Court has no jurisdiction and that it will not participate in the proceedings. On November 29, 2019, it sent the ICJ a Memorandum and issued a public communique in support of its argument that the Court has no jurisdiction.

Guyana has rejected them both and maintains the position that it is for the Court itself to determine whether it has jurisdiction in accordance with established principles of international law, and that neither party can unilaterally determine this question.

Guyana’s position is that the boundary was established by the Arbitral Tribunal acting pursuant to a treaty concluded by Venezuela and Great Britain in 1897.

It contends that Venezuela celebrated the unanimous Arbitral Award, which was rendered by five eminent jurists; participated in a Joint Commission to demarcate the boundary on the ground; and insisted on the Award’s strict implementation. Only decades later, Guyana said, did Venezuela cease recognizing the Award’s validity and binding nature.

To ensure a final resolution to the controversy through peaceful means, the Governments of British Guiana, Venezuela and the United Kingdom concluded the Geneva Agreement should be used to resolve the controversy. And on January 30, 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres chose adjudication by the Court as the means for resolving the controversy with finality.

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