Dr Ramcharran’s claims on the ICJ ruling are erroneous

– distinguished attorneys argue

Former National Assembly spokesman Ralph Ramkarran said the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that it had the jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s request on Guyana’s border case, Venezuela, was a ‘historic victory’ for the country.

On Friday, in a 12-4 majority decision, judges in the ICJ found they had jurisdiction to hear a suit brought by Guyana, arguing that the border was established by the 1899 arbitration between Venezuela and British colonial Guiana at the time. This ruling paves the way for Guyana to present a substantive case on the border debate, in which the country seeks to secure the final and binding ruling of the 1899 Arbitration Award.

Although a Guyanese jurist and international public servant, Dr. Bertrand Ramcharan, finding the ICJ ruling “reckless”, potentially damaging Guyana’s case, asked Ramkarran, “… the Court’s jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s claim on the validity of the 1899 Prize and the consequent validity of the Guyana border, Guyana achieved a historic victory. ”

In a column published in the Stabroek News, Dr. Ramcharan finds that the World Court’s framing of the issue is problematic, given that the ruling deemed the border dispute to be a “land border dispute” while Guyana’s case, so far, is that there is no problem with the land border establishing , in 1899, that Essequibo belonged to Guyana. The matter of substance, says Dr. Ramcharan, is to confirm this decision in 1899.

The Former Speaker, a distinguished attorney-at-law himself, disagreed with this reasoning, however. In a letter to the Stabroek News, he asked, “It is very clear from the decision that the World Court did not invent a land or territorial dispute. Guyana raised the issue in the context of Award 18.9. ”

What this meant, he explained, was that the court did not invent a land boundary dispute. Instead, he demanded that recognizing that a border dispute existed was inextricably linked to Guyana’s assertion that the 1899 decree – which confirmed the border depicting British Guiana owning the territory west of the Essequibo River – was valid.

For further context, Venezuela and Great Britain received the 1899 decree and thereafter, a mixed border commission jointly appointed by the two countries conducted a border and border survey, between 1901 and 1905, of the border as stated in the judgment. This brought a valid and binding 1905 treaty on the border between Guyana and Venezuela.


In a brief statement issued Monday night, the Government of Guyana stated that it does not share Dr.’s reservations. Ramcharran.

“The Government and people of Guyana welcome the decision of the World Court which represents a landmark victory for the rule of law internationally and for Guyana,” the statement read.

The lawyers representing Guyana at the ICJ, Mr Paul Reichler and Professor Philippe Sands, QC, also rejected Dr Ramcharran’s dismissal, confirming that this ruling gave Guyana the opportunity to obtain a final and binding judgment on the validity of an award 1899 – something the country has been seeking since independence in 1966.

“The judgment follows the court’s careful and considered approach, as reflected in its practice. The court has not expressed any opinion on whether or not there is a dispute over a land border between Guyana and Venezuela, ”the duo said, as reported by Demerara Waves.

“Instead, it has decided to exercise jurisdiction over the question of whether such a dispute has been the subject of a ‘definitive settlement’, a question which turns on the validity of the 1899 Arbitration Award,” they added in the Demerara Waves report.


They also submitted, through their combined experience, that they believed the judgment to be reasonable and “one which is entirely favorable to Guyana”.

Despite that 1899 Arbitration Award, Venezuela still claimed a large portion of Guyana’s territory. Eventually, in 1966, a few months before Guyana became an independent nation, the Geneva Agreement (formally known as the Agreement to Resolve the Border Dispute between Venezuela and British Guiana) was signed. In essence, this agreement governs the debate and intends to allow two countries to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner.

Article IV of the Geneva Treaty, however, makes provision for the participation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who will “choose an alternative method set out in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter, etc. until the dispute has been resolved. or until all methods of peaceful settlement considered have been exhausted ”.

This provision paved the way for the “Good Officer” process, which provided a framework for discussions on resolving the dispute. In 2016, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon, agreed with his successor, António Guterres, to continue using the Good Officer Process until the end of 2017 as a means of reaching a settlement. After this process failed, in 2018, the UN Secretary General referred the case to the ICJ. And this is where Guyana currently hopes to resolve the issue, favorably, once and for all.

However, Ramkarran noted that he was “disappointed” that the ICJ had refused jurisdiction for the events after the date of the Geneva Agreement. Following the Geneva Agreement, however, Venezuela has been aggressive towards Guyana, clearly acting in breach of that agreement. That country seized half of Guyana from Ankoko Island and reported military aggression in the border area.

Ramkarran’s letter emphasized that he was speaking on his own behalf and not the Government or the lawyers who appeared on behalf of the Government in the ICJ. It is important to note that he served on the Ministerial Team for the Guyana / Venezuela Border Debate from 1994 to the present. In August, this year, he was appointed adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on Border Affairs.