The International Court of Justice (ICJ) today ruled that it had jurisdiction to hear the case of Guyana seeking to validate an arbitrary 1899 decree establishing the border with Venezuela.
The decision will be considered a major victory for Guyana.
The ruling found that Guyana and Venezuela had given authority to the Secretary-General of the United Nations under Article 4, paragraph two of the Geneva Treaty of February 17th 1966. That agreement allowed the Secretary-General to choose a method of settlement under Article 33 of the United Nations Charter which included a judicial settlement.
The ruling was delivered by the President of the ICJ, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf.
Guyana’s raid into the ICJ came earlier this year after decades of contention in his border debate with Venezuela.
Venezuela did not participate in the case.
On June 30 this year, Sir Shridath Ramphal with the support of several international lawyers argued before the World Court that he had the jurisdiction to decide that the Paris Prize which settled the border between Guyana and Venezuela was binding.
In his submission to the Court, Ramphal claimed that a legal settlement of this issue is the only remaining right as Guyana has exhausted all other measures including those provided for in the 1966 Geneva Agreement.
He noted that an Agreement entitles the UN Secretary-General (SG) where other solutions have failed from a list in Section 36 of the Agreement.
The Secretary-General, Ramphal, emphasized that he had chosen this Court.
The Guyana case is based in the plain text of the Geneva Treaty in which the parties expressly consented to the SG’s decision on the means of resolving their dispute as to the validity of the 1899 decree … and that the dispute be settled by the International. Court of Justice if that’s the way the SG chose, ”he recalled.
In its Application on March 29 before the ICJ, Guyana asked the Court to award and state:
“(A) The 1899 Award is valid and binding on Guyana and Venezuela, and the boundary established by that Award and the 1905 Treaty is valid and binding on Guyana and Venezuela;
(b) Guyana has full sovereignty over the territory between the Essequibo River and the border established by the 1899 Prize and the 1905 Treaty, and Venezuela enjoys full sovereignty over the territory west of that border; Guyana and Venezuela are under an obligation to fully respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with the border established by the 1899 Prize and the 1905 Treaty;
(c) Venezuela shall immediately withdraw and give up its possession of the eastern half of Ankoko Island, and all other territories recognized as the sovereign territory of Guyana pursuant to the 1899 Prize and the 1905 Treaty;
(d) Venezuela must refrain from threatening or using force against any person and / or company licensed by Guyana or engaging in economic or commercial activity in Guyanese territory as determined by the 1899 Prize and the 1905 Treaty, or in any maritime areas relevant to that territory. over which Guyana has sovereignty or exercises sovereign rights, and shall not interfere with any activities authorized by Guyanese or Guyanese in those areas;
(e) Venezuela is internationally responsible for the infringement of Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights, and for all injuries suffered by Guyana as a result. ”
On January 30th this year, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres recommended that the Guyana / Venezuela border debate be referred to the ICJ also known as the World Court.
Following a request from Guyana for a legal settlement, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on December 15, 2016 had given the good office process between the two countries one extra year – 2017 – for negotiations on settlement If there was not significant progress the matter would be forwarded to the ICJ. There was no progress. When he filed his case on March 29 in the ICJ, Guyana said the United Nations Secretary-General’s authority to choose the ICJ as a means of resolving the dispute was based on the 1966 Geneva Agreement negotiated just before Guyana gained independence.