Legal team update Ministerial Advisory Committee on upcoming case management, other issues
Guyana-Venezuela border controversy
Guyana’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Friday convened to discuss the Guyana-Venezuela Border Controversy ahead of the case management hearing set for Monday, January 25 at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
During the meeting, the local legal team updated the Committee on the upcoming case management and other related matters.
The Committee is chaired by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd, and co-chaired by Parliamentary Affairs and Governance Minister Gail Teixeira.
Among those present at Friday’s meeting, apart from Ministers Todd and Teixeira, were: Advisor to the Foreign Affairs Minister on Border Issues, Ralph Ramkarran; Ambassador Cedric Joseph; Ambassador Rudy Collins; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashleigh Jackson; National Security Advisor, Captain Gerry Gouveia; Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper; former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Advisor to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge; Senior Foreign Service Officer I, Donnette Streete; former Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland; and Ambassador Audrey Waddell.
The case management conference was initially scheduled for January 15, 2021, but was postponed by the World Court, located at The Hague, Netherlands.
Greenidge, who is Guyana’s Agent on the Guyana-Venezuela Border Controversy, told Guyana Times last week that they were informed of the postponement one week prior to the hearing, but are not privy to the reason behind the change.
Nevertheless, Guyana’s Agent explained that, at the upcoming case management conference next week, 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 be given an opportunity to clear up any matters to deal with the procedures which the parties or the court may have.
While Greenidge could not say whether the change had anything to do with the January 7, 2021 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 has claimed that he had asked the ICJ to postpone the hearing for three months, but they only postponed it for 10 days. Venezuela has claimed that it is being short-changed by the ICJ, and that it has not been given sufficient time to prepare for the hearing of the case.
Guyana has approached the World Court, 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, two weeks ago, 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 has declared 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 was 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.
In fact, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon last week reiterated the APNU/AFC Coalition’s condemnation of the recent decree, adding that it is illegal and can only serve to foment 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 action 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 United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, following failed Good Officers’ 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, had written the court to say that the UN SG had 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 had 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. (G8)