ICJ Hearing on Guyana/Venezuela Controversy set for March
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
The International Court of Justice has scheduled a hearing for the week of 23 March 2020 on
the controversy arising from Venezuela’s contention that the Arbitral Award of 3 October
1899 establishing the boundary with Guyana is null and void.
Guyana will at that time submit its oral pleadings as to why the Court wa s properly vested with jurisdiction by the United Nations Secretary-General. It will be for the Court to determine its own jurisdiction in accordance with established principles of international law.
Pursuant to the decision of the United Nations Secretary-General, undertaken in accordance with his authority under the Geneva Agreement of 17 February 1966, the matter is now before the Court for a final and binding resolution.
Venezuela has so far taken the position that the Court has no jurisdiction an d that it will not participate in the proceedings. On 29 November 2019, it sent the Court a Memorandum and issued a public Communique in support of its argument that the Court has no jurisdiction. Guyana rejects them both and maintains the position that it is for the Court itself to determine whether it has jurisdiction and that neither party can unilaterally determine this question.
As Guyana explained in its Memorial on Jurisdiction, which it submitted to the Court on 19
November 2018, the boundary was established by the Arbitral Tribunal acting pursuant to a treaty concluded by Venezuela and Great Britain in 1897.
Venezuela celebrated the unanimous Arbitral Award, which was rendered by five eminent jurists; participated in a Joint Commission to demarcate the boundary on the ground; and insisted on the Award’s strict implementation. Only decades later did Venezuela, in anticipation of Guyana’s independence, cease recognizing the Award’s validity and binding nature.
To ensure a final resolution to the controversy through peaceful means, the Governments of British Guiana, Venezuela and the United Kingdom concluded the Geneva Agr eement, Article IV of which authorizes the Secretary-General of the United Nations to decide which of the means listed in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter – which includes binding adjudication by the International Court of Justice – shall be used to resolve the controversy. In agreeing to Article IV, Venezuela consented to the Court’s jurisdiction in the event that the Secretary-General decided that the controversy should be resolved by the Court.
On 30 January 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, acting under the authority bestowed on him by the Geneva Agreement, chose adjudication by the Court as the means for resolving the controversy with finality.
Guyana commenced proceedings before the Court on 29 March 2018 in acco rdance with the
Secretary-General’s decision. Guyana has no doubt that the Court has jurisdiction.