Guyana Formally Files Case in World Court Over Venezuela Border Issue


Government Says Application to ICJ Represents “Peaceful Resolution of Conflict”

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Guyana on Thursday formally applied to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking confirmation that the 1899 Arbitral Award of the boundary with Venezuela is legal, valid and binding.

Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, who is Guyana’s Agent in the court proceedings, delivered the application to the ICJ Registrar, Philippe Couvreur.

On Monday the Guyana government insisted that its decision to file its application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on the decades old border dispute represents ‘a great moment for the future prosperity and security” of the country.

In a statement, Greenidge said that it also underscores the move by Georgetown “for the betterment of our neighborly relations with our Venezuelan brothers and sisters”.

Last week, Venezuela said it wanted a “practical and satisfying” solution to the border dispute.

“Under the aegis of the Geneva Agreement of 1966, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela proposed the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana to re-establish the diplomatic contacts that allow for a practical and satisfying solution of the territorial controversy,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Caracas said that it “objects to the judicial settlement as a means of resolving the territorial dispute over Guyana’s Essequibo, since it violates the preamble of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which establishes, exhaustively, that the controversy must be “amicably resolved in a way that is acceptable to both parties”.

It said that the move to the ICJ also violates Article I, since it does not lead to “satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the dispute”.

The Geneva Agreement of 1966 was signed between Venezuela and the United Kingdom regarding steps for a future resolution of the border controversy. Venezuela had rejected the Arbitral Award of 1899 between both countries as “null and void,” claiming sovereignty over a portion of what was then British Guiana.

In his statement, Greenidge said there would be “interesting times ahead” for Guyana adding that the move to the ICJ is to “initiate legal proceedings in regard to Venezuela’s claim that the 1899 Arbitral Award is invalid.

“As you are aware, the consequence of this assertion is to put into question Guyana’s sovereignty over two thirds of its territory,” he said, adding that the “Application therefore asks the Court to confirm in a final and binding judgment the full legal validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award that delimited our land boundary with Venezuela. Coming from the principal judicial organ of the UN, such a judgment will once and for all put to rest this baseless contention.

“As you are aware, Guyana has suffered from Venezuela’s contention of nullity ever since our independence in 1966. This assertion has undermined our ability to develop our sovereign territory and resources, including our natural wealth in the sea. By means of a judgment of the Court our objective is to put this controversy to a definitive end so Guyana and Venezuela can live together as neighbours without the shadow of this conflict.”

Greenidge said that this course of action follows the decision of UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to choose the ICJ as the means for resolving this controversy.

“Now that the Application is before the Court, the process leading to this final judgment has commenced. This is a great moment for the rule of law worldwide and for the peaceful resolution of conflict in our Caribbean region. Above all it is a great moment for the future prosperity and security of Guyana and for the betterment of our neighbourly relations with our Venezuelan brothers and sisters.

“We will now await the response of the Court to our Application. Venezuela of course has the right to respond and disagree with Guyana’s position on the validity of the 1899 Award. But either way the process leading to a final judgment has now been set into motion.”

Greenidge said that the judicial process will unfold in several stages and Guyana will periodically inform the public of its progress.

“This is likely to be a lengthy process, but having waited more than fifty years, we are fully committed to seeing it through until the very end. The Government of Guyana looks forward to the continuing support of the Guyanese people as we move forward with this historic process in pursuit of justice,” he added. – CMC