THE HAGUE, November 19, 2022 - Guyana is maintaining that Venezuela’s demand that Britain be added as a party to the case concerning the Arbitral Award of October 3 1899 which fixed the Boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana is nothing but a ploy to derail and delay the Court’s determination of the merits of Guyana’s claims.”
Guyana’s lawyers told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday, that contrary to Venezuela’s position, the United Kingdom ceased having any role to play in the border controversy over the Essequibo Region since 1966 when independence was granted.
The two countries were making submissions as the public hearings on the preliminary objections raised by Venezuela in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of October 3 1899 which fixed the Boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana continued at the The International Court of Justice (ICJ), in the Hague, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, which begun on Thursday November 17, 2022.
In response to Venezuela's Vice President Delcy Rodriguez who asked the Hague Court to declare Guyana's lawsuit over the Essequibo inadmissible, Guyana’s agent Carl Greenidge on Friday told the court that “Venezuela’s preliminary objections are both legally unsupportable and entirely without foundation… and appear to be a device intended to derail and delay the Court’s determination of the merits of Guyana’s claims.”
Mr. Greenidge told the court that it is incredible that “Venezuela now comes to the International Court to contend that a dispute between two sovereign South American States concerning delimitation of a land boundary in South America is, in its very essence, a dispute about the continuing legal rights and obligations of a former European Power.
A former colonial Power, moreover, which unconditionally relinquished any claim to the territory in question nearly sixty years ago; which has never subsequently asserted any claim, right or legal interest in respect of that territory or the Arbitral Award which determined its boundaries; and which has expressly welcomed and supported the Court’s decision to exercise jurisdiction over Guyana’s claims.”
Despite this, you heard Venezuela yesterday make a startling appeal to the need to protect “the dignity” of that former imperial Power by refusing to exercise jurisdiction over a claim brought by its former imperial possession — Guyana.”
According to Professor of International Law at the University College London, Philippe Sands, contrary to Venezuela’s position, the United Kingdom ceased having any role to play in the border controversy over the Essequibo Region since 1966 when Guyana got its independence from Britain.
” I will be blunt: the reality is, in our submission, that Venezuela does not really truly regard the United Kingdom as an indispensable third party to these proceedings. The reality — as everyone in this room knows — is that the United Kingdom has no legal skin in this game, and Venezuela and its counsel know that.
“The reality is that Venezuela’s preliminary objections are a concoction, a late attempt to derail the process, to prevent this Court from delivering the impartial and authoritative ruling which will finally bring this controversy to a legal end,” Sands told the court.
Mr. Paul S. Reichler, Attorney at Law, of the United States-headquartered law firm, Foley Hoag LLP questioned “what are these purported legal interests, which the British are said to retain, more than half a century after Guyana’s independence, and how does Venezuela support its argument that they constitute the very subject-matter of this case?
“Venezuela’s principal argument, expressed in its Preliminary Objections of 7 June 2022, is that the United Kingdom has interests in the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 simply because it was a party to that Award.
“Yesterday, we heard a new argument in support of the preliminary objections, not included in Venezuela’s written submission, but advanced for the first time in these oral hearings: that Venezuela intends to argue, at the merits stage, that the Award is invalid due to fraudulent conduct by the United Kingdom prior to and during the hearings before the arbitral tribunal in 1899.
“According to Venezuela, because of this contention, which it says it intends to advance, in determining whether the Arbitral Award is valid, the Court will have to decide whether the United Kingdom engaged in unlawful conduct at the end of the nineteenth century.
“Guyana does not accept Venezuela’s proposition that, even then, the Court would be required to pass judgment on the lawfulness of the United Kingdom’s conduct in order to determine the validity of the Arbitral Award, Mr. Reichler noted.
“Even under this assumption, we are still left with the unanswered question of how the legal interests of the United Kingdom would constitute the very subject-matter of the judgment the Court is called upon to render in this case.
“Specifically, what legal rights or obligations of the United Kingdom, today, would be affected by the Court’s judgment on the issues over which it took jurisdiction in its Judgment of 18 December 2020?
The answer is: none. And that is why Venezuela was unable to answer this question yesterday” Mr. Reichler declared.
"To be sure, between 1899 and 1966, when British Guiana remained a colony of the United Kingdom, the colonial Power maintained a legal interest in the international boundary between its colony and Venezuela that was fixed by the Arbitral Tribunal. But that legal interest — like all legal rights of the United Kingdom in the colony of British Guiana — came to a complete and definitive end upon the decolonization of Guyana, and its birth as an independent State, sovereign over its own national territory, on 26 May 1966.
After that date, as a matter of decolonization law, the United Kingdom did not have, and could not have, any legal interests — any legal rights or obligations — in Guyana’s sovereign territory, or in the international boundaries that defined it," Reichler concluded.