Guyana v Venezuela border case
By: Jarryl Bryan
The hearing on jurisdiction in the ‘Guyana v Venezuela’ territorial case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) began today with Guyana urging the court to reject Venezuela’s “meritless and illogical” arguments that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case.
Making this call was international border dispute lawyer Paul Reichler, one of several lawyers on Guyana’s legal team. Reichler cited a number of documents which established that Venezuela itself agreed to terms in the 1966 Geneva agreement that allows the United Nations (UN) the sole jurisdiction to refer the case to the ICJ.
Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister at that time was Ignacio Iribarren Borges.
Reichler presented to the court a statement Iribarren made to the National Congress on March 17, 1966, in which he proclaimed that “due to the Venezuelan objections accepted by Great Britain, there exists an unequivocal interpretation that the only person participating in the selection of the means of solution will be the Secretary General of the United Nations and not the assembly.”
Iribarren went on to say that “in compliance with article 4, if no satisfactory solution for Venezuela is reached, the award of 1899 should be revised through arbitration or a judicial recourse.”
Back then, the Foreign Minister even acknowledged that Venezuela’s agreement to the Geneva agreement was based on Article 33 of the United Nations Charter, which provides for both arbitration and recourse to the ICJ. In fact, it was a Venezuelan proposal during the discussions.
Only recently, Venezuela had communicated it’s intention to boycott today’s hearing. However, the Spanish speaking country had submitted a memorandum last year, in which it outlined it’s reasons for not recognising the ICJ’s role. Reichler used this memorandum in rejecting Venezuela’s contentions. According to him, Venezuela’s current flip flopped position is at odds with what it agreed to in 1966.
“The Foreign Minister left no doubt what Venezuela intended and that parties understood, by his insistence that judicial recourse be authorized under the 1966 agreement,” Reichler told the court, located in the Peace Palace of the Hague.
“There is no doubt, Mr. President, for either the terms of the agreement, the negotiating history or the contemporaneous statements by the parties immediately following its conclusion, that article 4.2 was intended to ensure there would be a final resolution of the controversy, that the Secretary General was empowered to decide on the means of the settlement to be employed and the parties understood and intended that if the secretary general so decided, the controversy would be settled by the ICJ. This was Venezuela’s understanding of the Geneva agreement.”
Guyana is being represented at the ICJ by former Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge; and Sir Shridath Ramphal, who was Guyana’s Attorney General at the time the Geneva agreement was reached. Also part of the Guyana delegation is opposition representative Gail Texieira; former Foreign Affairs Minister Rashleigh Jackson; and former Director Generals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Elizabeth Harper and Audrey Waddell.