World Court rules it has jurisdiction to hear Guyana-Venezuela border controversy case

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled, by a 12-4 majority, that it has jurisdiction to entertain the application filed by Guyana concerning the Arbitral Award of 1899.

This means that the World Court will be proceeding to hear the arguments in the substantive matter regarding the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award which sets out the boundary between Guyana and its neighbour, Venezuela.

On June 30, 2020, the ICJ, which has its headquarters in the Netherlands, heard oral arguments via video conference from Guyana’s legal team headed by Sir Shridath Ramphal on the question of its jurisdiction to adjudicate in the matter.

The case is premised on a border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela in which the Spanish-speaking country has laid claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in the Essequibo region and a portion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which more than eight billion barrels of oil have been discovered.

After a failed good offices process between the two neighbouring countries, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, in 2018, had referred the border controversy matter to be resolved by the World Court.

Shortly after, Guyana filed a case seeking a final and binding judgment 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.

On June 30, 2020, the ICJ held its first public hearing of the border controversy case via video conference on whether it has jurisdiction to adjudicate the case on the border controversy between the neighbouring States.

Venezuela had indicated that it does not accept the jurisdiction of the court.

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