Guyana yesterday submitted its application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) requesting the court to confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the 1899 Arbitral Award regarding the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the application follows the decision of UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in choosing the ICJ as the next means of resolving the controversy that arose as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela was null and void.
In its application to the Court, Guyana “highlighted that Venezuela had, for more than 6o
years, consistently recognized and respected the validity and binding force of the 1899 Award and with the 1905 map agreed by both sides in furtherance of the award.”
However, Venezuela only changed its position formally in 1962 as the United Kingdom was making final preparations for the independence of British Guiana and 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.
The Ministry disclosed that Guyana’s application notes that while Venezuela has never produced any evidence to justify its belated repudiation of the 1899 award, rather 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.
“The UN Secretary-General’s authority to choose the ICJ as the means for resolving the controversy is rooted in the Geneva Agreement of 1966, negotiated just before Guyana attained independence.”
The Ministry also pointed out that on January 30, 2018, Secretary General Guterres concluded that the Good Offices Process, in which the parties had engaged for almost 30 years, had failed to achieve a solution to the controversy and chose the ICJ as the next means of settlement.
The application was handed over to Philippe Couvreur yesterday, Registrar of the ICJ by Carl Greenidge, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, who will serve as Guyana’s agent in the proceedings before the Court.
According to Minister Greenidge, in filing its application, Guyana has respected the Secretary General’s decision and placed its faith in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to resolve the controversy in accordance with its statute and jurisprudence, based on the fundamental principles of international law, including the sanctity of treaties, the maintenance of settled boundaries and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.
Following the 2015 discovery of oil and change of Government, Venezuela had upped its claims on Guyana, with its aggression even seeing actions taken to end a rice-for-oil deal to pressure this country.
Guyana later that year went to the United Nations and made a complaint to the General Assembly.
Guyana has also earmarked some monies from the oil agreement with ExxonMobil, about US$18M to fight the case at ICJ.
The ICJ has its seat in The Hague, The Netherlands, and is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
The legal team of Guyana is being led by Sir Shridath Ramphal, an experienced lawyer and former Attorney General of Guyana who successfully also played a lead role in the 2007 successful award in the arbitration regarding the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Guyana and Suriname.
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