Guyana asks ICJ to stop Venezuela’s provocative referendum over Essequibo

Guyana has approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ), seeking an injunction from the world court to prevent Venezuela from taking actions through its provocative referendum over Guyana’s territory – Essequibo.
The ICJ announced on Tuesday that Guyana had approached the court seeking its intervention in Venezuela’s upcoming referendum, planned for December 3. Venezuela’s referendum will seek the Venezuelan people’s approval to, among other things, annex Essequibo and create a Venezuelan state.
One of the questions from the referendum that Guyana is seeking an order against, is the very first one, which asks the Venezuelan people to reject the boundary between the two countries that was set in the 1899 Arbitral Award – following a process of arbitration.
Guyana is also seeking the court’s intervention against question three, which asks the Venezuelan people not to recognise the ICJ’s jurisdiction, even though the court had thrown out Venezuela’s previous attempt to get the court not to accept jurisdiction over the case.
Finally, the court’s intervention is being sought for question five. Question five asks the Venezuelan people to agree to the annexation of Essequibo and the creation of a Venezuelan state. Additionally, Question five seeks the citizens approval for, among others, Venezuela granting citizenship and identity cards for residents of Essequibo.
According to the ICJ, Guyana is also seeking an order from the court that “Venezuela shall not take any actions that are intended to prepare or allow the exercise of sovereignty or de facto control over any territory that was awarded to British Guiana in the 1899 Arbitral Award” and further that “Venezuela shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.”

Meanwhile, the Government sent out a statement of its own on Tuesday explaining this approach to the ICJ. In its statement, the Government said that the ICJ’s protection is urgent, adding that because of the urgency of the matter, Guyana has asked the Court to schedule oral hearings on its request at the earliest possible date in advance of December 3.
“Yesterday (Monday), in further response to Venezuela’s sinister plan for seizing Guyanese territory, Guyana sought the urgent protection of the International Court of Justice, by filing with the Court a Request for Provisional Measures,” the Government’s statement said.

Guyana’s team at the World Court in April 2023 for the ruling in the border controversy case regarding Venezuela’s preliminary objection

“In that Request, Guyana seeks from the Court an Order preventing Venezuela from taking any action to seize, acquire or encroach upon, or assert or exercise sovereignty over, the Essequibo Region or any other part of Guyana’s national territory, pending the Court’s final determination of the validity of the Arbitral Award that established the land boundary between our two States, and the final and binding nature of that boundary.”
In the statement, Guyana further urged the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the international community to continue reminding Venezuela of its obligations under international law.
Venezuela’s move to hold the referendum has been criticised by a number of organisations including the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Caricom. About a week ago, the Guyana Government had also issued a statement denouncing Venezuela’s aggression.
After a failed good offices process between the two South American neighbours, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres in 2018 had referred the border controversy to be resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Shortly after, Guyana filed a case seeking a final and binding judgement to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties, and legal affirmation that the Essequibo region, which contains much of Guyana’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.
The Spanish-speaking nation is laying claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in Essequibo and a portion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which more than nine billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past six years.
Back in March 2021, ICJ had granted Guyana until March 8, 2022, to file its written submissions for the case, after requesting 12 months. Venezuela was given until March 8, 2023, to submit its counter-memorial. (G3)