OAS calls on Venezuela to release illegally detained Guyanese citizens

The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS), today, issued a statement supporting Guyana, joining its call for Venezuela to release 12 Guyanese it has illegally detained since Thursday.  

The OAS also called for the release of the two Guyanese registered fishing vessels seized by the Venezuelan authorities in Guyana’s waters.

In a statement, the OAS said it “condemns the illegal detention” of the Guyanese vessels and crew, “who were located within the Cooperative Republic of Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“The General Secretariat demands that the Guyanese citizens are released promptly and safely to Guyanese authorities, as well as the two detained vessels.”

The Venezuelan navy intercepted the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf and their crew while they were operating off the coast at Waini Point in Guyana’s waters. The crew and vessels have since been detained at Port Guiria in Venezuela.

The OAS said it supports the rules and the processes enshrined in international law concerning territorial issues.

Further, the group noted that the resolution of the border matter between Guyana and Venezuela “lies under international jurisdiction, and cannot be settled by unilateral actions. Any attempt to derail this international legal process, such as the decree issued by the Maduro regime, is contrary to international law and standards, and has no legal bearing or significance.”

On Tuesday, the Government of Belize issued a similar statement in support of Guyana.

“Belize reiterates its unequivocal support for Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the process underway before the International Court of Justice to finally and peacefully resolve the controversy between the two countries,” the statement said.

Since the incident, Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has condemned Venezuela’s aggression. The Ministry also highlighted that the Venezuelan navy vessel was illegally maneuvering within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Contiguous Zone when it detained the Guyanese vessels and crew.

“Guyana condemns in the strongest possible terms this wanton act of aggression by the Venezuelan armed forces against Guyana and Guyanese citizens. This Venezuelan action amounts to an interference with the sovereign rights of Guyana in its EEZ, contrary to international law,” the Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Minister, Hon. Hugh Todd, on Monday, held a virtual meeting with His Excellency, Jorge Arreaza, Minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to discuss the modalities for the release of the Guyanese crew and vessels.  The Ministry later issued an official statement saying the discussions were cordial and that “Minister Arreaza undertook to pursue their early release.”

Minister Todd also met the owners of the detained fishing vessels on Monday and pledged to work to secure the seamen and vessels’ early release.  “We are doing all within our power to reunite the crew members with their families and help you to continue with your business,” he said.

Venezuela’s latest act of aggression followed closely on President Nicolas Maduro issuing a decree on January 9, 2021 claiming sovereignty over the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast.

His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali had swiftly denounced that decree as a “legal nullity” which would not be recognised by any state in the world.

In his address to the nation, President Ali had said, “Guyana rejects entirely the decree issued by President Maduro.”

President Ali had also reminded Venezuela that based on international law, “no State can unilaterally determine its international boundaries, whether they are land boundaries or maritime boundaries. The fixing of an international boundary under international law can only result from an agreement between neighbouring states, or a binding determination by an international court or arbitral tribunal.”

The border case between Guyana and Venezuela is currently before the ICJ where Guyana is seeking a final juridical ruling to confirm the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award.

The case management conference to deal with the substantive matter has been rescheduled for February 26 after twice being postponed this month.

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