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NLD | Dec 12, 2020

International Court of Justice to issue crucial ruling on Guyana-Venezuela border dispute

/ Our Today

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Ruling to be televised as court attendance restricted

The International Court of Justice, which has its seat in The Hague,
is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. (Photo: icj-cij.org)

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will rule on December 18 whether it has jurisdiction to take up Guyana’s quest for a juridical ruling on the 1899 arbitral award which settled Guyana’s more than a decade-old boundary dispute with Venezuela.

The ICJ will hold a public sitting of the court at the Peace Palace in The Hague, which is the administrative capital of The Netherlands, starting at 3:00 p.m. At that time, ICJ president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, will read out the court’s decision.

Known as the World Court, the ICJ is the arbiter of international legal dispute involving those countries that have submitted to the court having been established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations. In making the announcement of the impending ruling on December 10, the ICJ said only members of the court and representatives of the disputing parties will be present in the Great Hall of Justice based on restrictions due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

A hearing inside the International Court of Justice. (icj-cij.org)

Members of the diplomatic corps, the media and public will be able to follow the reading through a live webcast on the court’s website, as well as on UN Web TV. The case involves the arbitral award of October 1899 that ruled in favour of Guyana over the Essequibo region which covers nearly three-quarters of Guyana.

However, Venezuela does not recognise the award and has sought a diplomatic settlement. The dispute has intensified on the part of Venezuela as Guyana advanced toward its oil discovery complaining of harassment by Venezuela’s navy of vessels in carrying out hydrocarbons seismic work.

VENEZUELA BOYCOTTED FIRST SITTING

In June this year, Venezuela boycotted the ICJ’s first hearing on its border dispute with Guyana, saying the United Nation’s top tribunal lacked jurisdiction. Caracas has been pressing a historic claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region, which encompasses two-thirds of the Caribbean territory, which borders Venezuela. The border dispute has escalated since US oil giant Exxon Mobil discovered crude off Guyana’s coast in 2015.

Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres referred the border row to the ICJ in 2018, but Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro said his country would not take part in the hearings at the court in The Hague.

“Very respectfully we inform that given that Venezuela did not accept the jurisdiction of the court… the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will not participate,” Maduro wrote in a letter read out to the court.

Maduro accused Guyana of “unilaterally” bringing the territorial dispute -the subject of a failed UN-sponsored attempt to broker a settlement in 2017 to international justice without its agreement. The hearing started at the end of June.

Next Friday the court will formally decide whether it has jurisdiction over the matter. Guyana maintains that valid land borders were set in 1899 by an arbitration court decision in Paris, a decision Venezuela has never recognised.

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