‘Guyana can call upon the Court to decide in its favour in the absence of Venezuela’-Foreign Affairs

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge

Following the communique issued by Venezuela on Monday outlining, inter alia, its decision to not participate in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) arbitration regarding the border controversy case, Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded with its own statement outlining that it intends to proceed under Article 53 of the Statute of the Court.

Article 53, according to the Ministry, states that “whenever one of the parties does not appear before the Court, or fails to defend its case, the other Party may call upon the Court to decide in favour of its claim”.

“Guyana is fully committed to the rule of law in international relations, including the peaceful resolution of disputes in conformity with international law. It trusts that the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations, will resolve the controversy with Venezuela in accordance with the law in a manner that is fair and equitable” the Ministry’s statement expounded.

Moreover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “wishes to reiterate that Guyana fully respects the decision of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to choose the International Court of Justice as the means of settlement of the controversy and is confident that the Court is fully empowered to decide the case.”

The Ministry also expressed its hopes that, in due course, “Venezuela will reconsider its position and decide to appear in Court and defend its case. The Court’s rules allow for that. At the same time, if Venezuela persists in its refusal to participate, the rules provide for the Court to proceed, after a full hearing of the case, to a final judgment that is legally binding on both the participating and nonparticipating parties.”

UN Secretary General, António Guterres (AFP/ Getty Images)

Following the decision made by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, on March 29, submitted, on behalf of the Government, an application to the ICJ, requesting the Court to confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the 1899 Arbitral Award regarding the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela.

In its Application to the Court, “Guyana highlighted that Venezuela had, for more than 60 years, consistently recognized and respected the validity and binding force of the 1899 Award and the 1905 Map agreed by both sides in furtherance of the Award.”

Moreover, it was outlined that Venezuela had only changed its position formally in 1962 as the United Kingdom was making final preparations for the independence of British Guiana and had threatened not to recognize the new State, or its boundaries, unless the United Kingdom agreed to set aside the 1899 Award and cede to Venezuela all of the territory west of the Essequibo River, amounting to some two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

Guyana’s Application, notes that while Venezuela has never produced any evidence to justify “its belated repudiation of the 1899 Award, it has used it as an excuse to occupy territory awarded to Guyana in 1899, to inhibit Guyana’s economic development and to violate Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.”

See the Ministry’s full statement below:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana wishes to advise that Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Honourable Carl Greenidge and Guyana’s Legal Counsel attended the meeting convened by the Honourable Abdulqawi Abdul Yusuf, President of the International Court of Justice on Monday June 18, 2018 to discuss with Guyana and Venezuela the scheduling of written pleadings in the case – the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela).

Subsequent to this meeting, Guyana noted the issuance of a press release by Venezuela stating that it would not be participating in the case.

Guyana observes that under Article 53 of the Statute of the Court, “whenever one of the parties does not appear before the Court, or fails to defend its case, the other Party may call upon the Court to decide in favour of its claim”. Guyana intends to proceed in accordance with the said Article.

Guyana is fully committed to the rule of law in international relations, including the peaceful resolution of disputes in conformity with international law. It trusts that the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations, will resolve the controversy with Venezuela in accordance with the law in a manner that is fair and equitable. It hopes that, in due course, Venezuela will reconsider its position and decide to appear in Court and defend its case. The Court’s rules allow for that. At the same time, if Venezuela persists in its refusal to participate, the rules provide for the Court to proceed, after a full hearing of the case, to a final judgment that is legally binding on both the participating and nonparticipating parties.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to reiterate that Guyana fully respects the decision of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to choose the International Court of Justice as the means of settlement of the controversy and is confident that the Court is fully empowered to decide the case.

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