GUYANA files memorial with ICJ in border dispute with Venezuela

GUYANA files memorial with ICJ in border dispute with Venezuela

GEORGETOWN,  Guyana, March 9, 2022 - Guyana on Tuesday submitted its memorial on the merits of its case against Venezuela in relation to the ongoing border dispute which is before the International Court of Justice.

The submission of the documents was required by International Court of Justice (ICJ) following its December 18 2020 decision which established its jurisdiction to hear the matter. In 2018, the UN Secretary General referred the matter to the International Court after the UN Good Offices process did not yield any result.

Guyana is seeking to obtain a final and binding judgment from the Court that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then-British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid and binding, and that Guyana’s Essequibo region belongs to Guyana, and not Venezuela.

Venezuela has claimed that the Secretary-General of the United Nations exceeded his authority under the Geneva Agreement and that the Court, therefore, lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate Guyana’s lawsuit.

If it decides that it has jurisdiction, the Court will proceed to rule on the merits of those claims, and decide whether the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award and the border between the two States should be confirmed.

Under the United Nations Charter and the Court’s own rules, its final judgments both on jurisdiction and the merits will be legally binding on Guyana and Venezuela, whether or not Venezuela participates in the proceedings.

The Government of Venezuela is against the Court making any determination, since it believes the Court has no jurisdiction to address the matter. But the Court disagreed and established that it has the jurisdiction.

Venezuela has made clear its objection to the ICJ decision in a statement on the matter:

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has reported that it expressly objects to the judicial settlement as a means of resolving the territorial dispute over Guayana Esequiba, since it violates the preamble of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which establishes, exhaustively, that the controversy must be “amicably resolved in a way that is acceptable to both parties”. The aforementioned method also violates Article I, since it does not lead to “satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the dispute”, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said.

It added that Guyana’s move to have the judicial settlement “is unacceptable, sterile and unenforceable, given that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as mandatory, and in this sense, it has always been consistent with its historical position of making an express reservation or not being a signatory of any international legal instrument that contains arbitration clauses that grant compulsory jurisdiction to the aforementioned Court.”

In its initial Application to the 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, but Venezuela changed its position in in 1962 as the United Kingdom was preparing to grant independence to Guyana. This year marks the 56th anniversary of the 1966 Geneva Agreement.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 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 today to the International Court of Justice of Guyana’s Memorial on the Merits as required by the Court”.

The former and present Guyana governments have been united in their position of the case before the ICJ as they see it as a non-partisan matter and one that is grounded in maintaining the country’s territorial integrity.

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