The case management conference before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) initially scheduled for Friday has been postponed for the next two weeks, according to Guyana’s Agent on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy, Carl Greenidge.
“The case management has been postponed for reasons we are not aware of. [It’s] been postponed for the 25th of this month [January],” Greenidge told this publication on Friday.
He explained that they were informed of this postponement last week.
While Greenidge could not say whether the change had anything to do with last week’s decree issued by the Nicolás Maduro Government, which has renewed claims to Guyana’s maritime border west of the Essequibo Coast, it would appear as though the postponement was made upon the request of Venezuela.
President Maduro claimed that he had asked the ICJ to postpone the hearing for three months but they only postponed it for 10 days. Venezuela had claimed that it is being short-changed by the ICJ and that it has not given them sufficient time to prepare for the hearing of the case.
Nevertheless, Guyana’s Agent noted that at the upcoming case management conference on January 25, the Court will decide on the time to be allotted to each of the parties, they will find out whether Venezuela will participate and they will also give an opportunity to clear up any matters to deal with the procedures which the parties or the court may have.
Guyana approached the World Court seeking a final and binding judgement to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties, and legal affirmation that Guyana’s Essequibo region, which contains much of Guyana’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.
However, last week, the Maduro regime issued a decree claiming for Venezuela, sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River – a move which President Dr Irfaan Ali has staunchly rejected.
The Guyanese leader declared last Saturday that Venezuela’s maritime border claim is a “legal nullity” that will not be recognised by Guyana or any other State in the world. He added that while this latest move by the Spanish-speaking nation is “deeply disturbing”, it will not deter Guyana’s resolve to seek a final and binding resolution at the ICJ.
“We have always chosen a path of peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan issue within international law… I remind that sovereignty over this coast, and the land territory to which it is attached, were awarded to Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1899 Arbitral Award, whose validity and legally binding character Guyana is confident the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will uphold unequivocally,” President Ali had asserted during an address to the nation.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s action has also been widely rejected here by the parliamentary Opposition, other political parties, civil society bodies and bilateral partners as well.
In fact, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon on Friday reiterated the APNU/AFC Coalition’s condemnation of the recent decree, adding that it is illegal and can only serve to ferment tension in a territorial controversy that is being peaceably resolved at the World Court.
“The APNU/AFC stands resolute in its solidarity with any reasonable actions that is taken by the State to safeguard Guyana’s sovereignty… We urge the Venezuelan Administration to utilise the International Court of Justice as the forum to present its case and to cease and desist from issuing these arbitrary decrees,” Harmon stated during a press conference.
Guyana’s March 2018 application to the ICJ was filed based on the recommendation of the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, following a failed good offices process between the neighbouring states.
In a majority decision on December 18, 2020, the ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction to adjudicate over the border controversy case.
This was after Venezuela, which has refused to participate in the legal proceedings, wrote the court to say that the UN SG exceeded his authority under the 1966 Geneva Agreement when he referred the case to the ICJ, and therefore the court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter.
The ICJ found that both Guyana and Venezuela consented to judicial settlement when they signed the Geneva Agreement since the judicial process via the ICJ is one of the means available to the Secretary General in determining the controversy. Hence, the Court’s decision is binding on both parties.
Meanwhile, Guyana’s Attorney General Anil Nandlall opined during his weekly programme – Issues In The News – early this week that Venezuela is refusing to submit to the ICJ’s jurisdiction because it knows that if the matter is fairly adjudicated in accordance with international law, norms and practices then the Spanish-speaking country will not have a case.
He explained that the ICJ was established to resolve international disputes among territories around the world via a legal conciliatory and judicial styled and fashioned method. It was expected, he added, that countries would willingly submit themselves to the jurisdiction of these tribunals and organisations in order to settle territorial disputes.
“Unfortunately, Venezuela, in abrogation of international law and in violation of all the treaties that they would have signed on to which would have mandated them to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of these tribunals, is now refusing itself to the jurisdiction to the court,” Nandlall stated.
The Attorney General went on to note that while it is within the sovereign rights of nations not to submit to treaties or international organisations such as the World Court if they do not wish to – which, he said, is an incidence of sovereignty – one would expect that a country would have “solid grounds” for not submitting to the jurisdiction of these international tribunals.
“Venezuela has not stated a sensible or plausible reason why it is not subjecting itself to the Court’s jurisdiction. So, the Court had to do the next best thing and assess the conduct of Venezuela in order to determine whether that conduct amounted to submission to the jurisdiction of the Court. One cannot participate in a process and then when the process culminates or reaches such a level that involves the court taking control of it, one is not allowed – either by municipal law or by international law – to extricate one’s self and deny the existence of a consistence course of conduct moving in a particular direction,” the AG pointed out.
According to Nandlall, those were the principles of law considered by the ICJ during its decision last month.