In a statement, the ICJ said the hearings will give the Parties to the case the possibility to address the question of the jurisdiction of the Court as it looks the controversy arising from Venezuela’s contention that the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 establishing the boundary with Guyana is null and void.
Guyana will submit its oral pleadings as to why the Court – which the case is before for a final and binding resolution – was properly vested with jurisdiction by the United Nations Secretary-General.
Venezuela has so far taken the position that the Court has no jurisdiction and that it will not participate in the proceedings. On November 29, 2019, it sent the ICJ a Memorandum and issued a public communique in support of its argument that the Court has no jurisdiction.
The entire hearing will be streamed live on the internet.
Guyana is seeking to obtain a final and binding judgment from the Court that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then-British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid and binding, and that Guyana’s Essequibo region belongs to Guyana, and not Venezuela.
Guyana is maintaining that it is for the Court itself to determine whether it has jurisdiction in accordance with established principles of international law, and that neither party can unilaterally determine this question.
Guyana’s position is that the boundary was established by the Arbitral Tribunal acting pursuant to a treaty concluded by Venezuela and Great Britain in 1897.
It contends that 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, Guyana said, did Venezuela 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 Agreement should be used to resolve the controversy. And on January 30, 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres chose adjudication by the Court as the means for resolving the controversy with finality.
Venezuela had indicated that it will not participate in the proceedings.
The Guyana Foreign Affairs Ministry said under well-established judicial precedent, the Court will proceed to decide if it has jurisdiction over Guyana’s claims, irrespective of whether or not Venezuela participates in the proceedings.
If it decides that it has jurisdiction, the Court will proceed to rule on the merits of those claims and decide whether the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award and the border between the two States should be confirmed.
Under the United Nations Charter and the Court’s own rules, its final judgments both on jurisdiction and the merits will be legally binding on Guyana and Venezuela, whether or not Venezuela participates in the proceedings.
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