ICJ reserves ruling in border case between Guyana and Venezuela

THE HAGUE (CMC) – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has reserved its judgement to Guyana’s claim that it has evidence that Venezuela intends to gain ownership of the mineral and forest-rich county of Essequibo through a referendum on December 3.

Both Guyana and Venezuela made presentations to the ICJ during two-days of hearing into the case relating to the 1899 Arbitral Award after Guyana, in its request, had said that the Venezuela Government, through its National Electoral Council, had published a list of five questions that it intends to put before the people of Venezuela in a “Consultative Referendum” next month.

“According to the applicant, the purpose of this referendum is to “obtain responses that would support Venezuela’s decision to abandon [the current proceedings before the Court], and to resort instead to unilateral measures to ‘resolve’ the controversy with Guyana by formally annexing and integrating into Venezuela all of the territory at issue in these proceedings, which comprises more than two-thirds of Guyana,” the ICJ said.

The 15-member Caricom grouping, the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat and and the Organization of American States (OAS) have also rejected the referendum, stating that international law strictly prohibits the Government of one State from unilaterally seizing, annexing or incorporating the territory of another state and noted that the referendum will open the door to the possible violation of this fundamental tenet of international law.

ICJ president Judge Joan Donoghue at the end of the public hearings on Wednesday informed the parties that they would be advised in due course as to the day on which the court will deliver its ruling.

“I shall request both agents to remain at the court’s disposal to provide any additional information the court may require. The court will render its order on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Guyana as soon as possible,” Judge Donoghue said.

Guyana applied to the ICJ in 2018 to have the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the border between Venezuela and the then-British Guiana, confirmed as legally enforceable. The 1899 ruling was likewise cited in this application as a “full, perfect, and final settlement” of all issues pertaining to drawing the borders between Venezuela and the British Guiana province.