A critical phase of the International Court case that Guyana has filed against Venezuela is expected to be conducted via video-conferencing next month. The new arrangements are because of the precautions implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic globally.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, the public hearings on the question of the court’s jurisdiction in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela) will open on Tuesday, June 30 at 2 p.m. at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the court.
“In view of the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the Court is cited as saying, “the hearings will take place in the Great Hall of Justice using videoconference technology and with the physical presence of some of members of the Court.”
The Ministry said yesterday that the members of the media and the public will be able to follow the oral proceedings on internet through a live web-stream. The programme of the hearings will be announced at a later stage –the proceedings will determine whether the court has jurisdiction over the case filed by Guyana on March 29, 2018.
By that case, Guyana seeks to obtain from the court a final and binding judgment that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then-British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid and binding.
Guyana wants a final judgment also that the Essequibo region belongs to Guyana, and not Venezuela. Guyana had brought its case to the court following the decision by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, in January 2018, that the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela should be decided by the International Court of Justice.
Venezuela has claimed, in a letter to the Court, that the Secretary-General exceeded his authority under the Geneva Agreement, and that the court therefore lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate Guyana’s lawsuit. On this basis, Venezuela has indicated that it will not participate in the proceedings.
On November 19, 2018, Guyana submitted its memorial to the court refuting Venezuela’s arguments and “demonstrating” that the court has jurisdiction. The Ministry pointed out that 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 case is being closely watched as Guyana has started producing oil. The border case can last up to five years, Government had said. Venezuela had a few years ago illegally projected its claims on the border and a major part of the mineral-rich Essequibo to even the waters that ExxonMobil has been developing its oil field, about 100 miles from Georgetown.
The APNU+AFC government has said that over two decades of talks between the two countries have failed and the matter must be settled once and for all. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945 and began its activities in April 1946. The Court is composed of 15 judges elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.
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