Attorney General Anil Nandlall has declared that Guyana will not be bullied by neighbouring Venezuela, which has made new claims to its maritime border west of the Essequibo Coast.
During his weekly programme, Issues In The News, Nandlall said Venezuela “…just wants to behave like a bully. It wants to abrogate international law. It doesn’t want to settle the dispute in a court that has the jurisdiction to do so, it wants to go extra-judicial, it would appear, for the settlement of this dispute. Well, we are not going to accept such bullyism.”
Last week, the Nicolás Maduro government 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 has been widely rejected here by Government, the Opposition, civil society bodies and bilateral partners.
Venezuela has claimed it is being shortchanged after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – which Guyana has approached for a final and binding settlement of the border controversy – set a case management hearing for Friday, January 15, 2021. The Spanish-speaking nation has said it has not been given sufficient time to prepare for the hearing of the case, but Guyana’s Attorney General is of the view that Venezuela’s misinterpretation of tomorrow’s hearing might be deliberate.
“All of this is deliberate! Venezuela wants to go rogue, and that is why Guyana has appealed to all our friends in the region and around the world for their support and solidarity, because Venezuela is obviously moving in a direction of a rogue nation. It is not considering itself bound by international law, international practices, international procedures, international precedents,” he contended.
Nandlall has posited that it is fortunate that, over the years, Guyanese, especially politicians, have been mature enough to put partisan politics aside and field a united front whenever this matter arises.
“Right now it is at its fore, and I hope that the same type of unity and the same type of nationalism will be galvanised across the political divide, so that we can show the world that while we may have a billion differences, but on this issue, all the politicians, all the political parties, all the people – every ethnic group, every racial group, every religious organisation, every national important organisation – stands firmly and stands unitedly in defending our territorial sovereignty,” the AG contended.
Based on the recommendation of United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, following the failed Good Officers’ Process, Guyana filed an application seeking a final and binding judgment 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, the Government of Venezuela has claimed, in a letter dated June 2018 to the World Court, 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.
Nandlall further opined 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 Venezuela does not have a case.
He explained that the ICJ was established just after the end of the Second World War with the purpose of no longer pursuing the paths of war but resort to legal conciliatory and judicial-styled and fashioned methods to resolve international disputes, and national disputes among territories in the world.
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 of 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 says 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 changes one’s mind]. One is not allowed – either by municipal law or by international law – to extricate one’s self and deny the existence of a consistent 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 December 18, 2020 decision, when it ruled that it has jurisdiction to adjudicate over the border controversy case.
In a majority ruling, the ICJ found that both Guyana and Venezuela have consented to judicial settlememt when it 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.
To this end, Nandlall said the Court’s decision is binding on both parties, and that it can join the proceedings in the substantive case. (G8)