Guyana tells World Court it has jurisdiction to hear border controversy case

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, on Tuesday gave Guyana time to answer a question after hearing hours of submissions on why it believes that court has a legal right to hear a case to settle the border controversy with Venezuela.

After Guyana’s co-agent, Sir Shridath Ramphal, wrapped up arguments to the court, Judge Mohamed Bennouna asked a question based on paragraph 2 of the 1966 Geneva Agreement that states either the controversy is resolved or all the means of peaceful settlement, in accordance with Article 33 of the United Nations Charter, have been exhausted.

“Would it be possible to think of a situation in which all of the peaceful means of a settlement have been exhausted without the controversy having been resolved?,” he asked.

The ICJ President said the text of the question would be sent to Guyana “as soon as possible” and Guyana would have to send a written reply no later than Monday, July 6, 2020.

He said Guyana and Venezuela would be advised when the ICJ would deliver its decision on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case aimed at settling the controversy over the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal  Award that settled the land boundary between the two neighbouring South American nations.

Venezuela has refused to participate in the hearings by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), saying that that body does not have jurisdiction.

Instead, Venezuela has submitted a 56-page memorandum to the court with some material.

One of Guyana’s lawyers, Paul Reichler told the ICJ that contrary to Venezuela, there is no need for the parties to agree before on whether to take the controversy to the ICJ. He suggested that Venezuela flipped-flopped over the decades about whether the ICJ had jurisdiction to settle the controversy if discussions and mediation failed.

“As the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, himself, emphasised ‘it was on the basis of this Venezuelan proposal that the Geneva Agreement was reached’. That was how Venezuela understood the agreement in 1966.

Venezuela’s current reading of the agreement is completely at odds with the interpretation given by its Foreign Minister who negotiated and agreed to its terms and explained their meaning to the National Congress upon ratification,” said Reichler who has been working for the Guyana government since the 1990s.

The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, at the request of Guyana referred the case to the ICJ in keeping with provisions of the 1966 Geneva Agreement because 50 years of mediation had failed to resolve the controversy.


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