Venezuela’s defiance of court order: UNSC emergency meeting calls for Venezuela to respect ICJ orders

Emanating from the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) emergency meeting on Friday – requested by Guyana amid Venezuela’s recent actions – is the widespread view that the orders of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) must be respected.
According to ABC News, the 15 council members shared the consensus that international law must be respected, including the UN Charter’s requirement that all member nations respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every other nation.
Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo provided the brief.
Not only did it call for the World Court’s orders to be respected, but also its role as an arbiter. However, no immediate action was taken at the private meeting, the several international news agencies have reported.
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd had issued a letter to the council, calling for an urgent meeting in light of Venezuela’s violation of the UN Charter.
The letter cited Article 35 (1) of the UN Charter, which states that any UN member state “may bring any dispute, or any situation referred to in Article 34 [that is, one that may lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute] to the attention of the Security Council or of the General Assembly”.

The United Nations Security Council in session (UN photo)

The UNSC contended on Friday, “Council members are likely to urge a peaceful resolution to the territorial dispute and express concern about its possible ramifications on the Region. Many Council members are expected to urge respect for multilateralism and adherence to international law, and express support for the ICJ. While some members—including the US and European members—are likely to regret Venezuela’s actions, others are not expected to specifically denounce Venezuela’s role in the situation.”
On December 1, the ICJ indicated its provisional measures, calling on Venezuela to refrain from “taking any action which would modify the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute, whereby the Co-operative Republic of Guyana administers and exercises control over that area,” and calling on both parties to avoid any action that might aggravate or extend the dispute.
The measures did not explicitly call on Venezuela not to conduct the referendum, however. The referendum was held on December 3, with Venezuelan authorities saying that all questions passed with more than 95 per cent approval.
On December 5, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro asked the state oil company to issue extraction licences for Venezuelan companies to explore for fossil fuels and minerals in the Essequibo region and proposed that the National Assembly pass a Bill to make the area part of Venezuela.
The Council shed light on the controversy before the meeting convened, highlighting that the dispute over the Essequibo region—an approximately 160,000 square kilometres stretch of densely forested land that constitutes two-thirds of Guyana’s territory —stretches back to the 19th century, when Guyana was under colonial rule.
It was outlined that Venezuela laid claim to the Essequibo region as far back as 1841, when it argued that the British Empire had encroached on Venezuelan territory in its acquisition of the territory of then-British Guiana from the Netherlands.
The border between Venezuela and British Guiana was decided through the 1899 Paris Arbitral Award, which was given by an international Tribunal of Arbitration, and the region has since been administered by the British and then by Guyana once it gained independence in 1966.
On various occasions since 1962, Venezuela has challenged the validity of the 1899 Paris Arbitral Award. Venezuela became more insistent in its claims over the disputed region in 2015, when oil was discovered in Guyana. In March 2018, Guyana filed an application at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), instituting proceedings against Venezuela regarding the disputed territory. (G3)