By Jarryl Bryan
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has granted an order giving Guyana until March 8, 2022, to file submissions in the border case with Venezuela, a date that Guyana’s Agent in the case, Carl Greenidge, said the country will be prepared for.
According to the ICJ’s Order of March 8, “Fixing of time limits; Memorial and counter-memorial”, Guyana has until March 8, 2022, to submit its memorial. Venezuela, on the other hand, has an extra year, until March 8, 2023, to submit its counter-memorial.
In an exclusive interview with Inews, Greenidge noted that the Court’s order is an attempt to mediate between the requests both countries made during a virtual meeting with the Court on February 26.
“In its wisdom, the Court has responded to a request from the two countries for differing time periods. We asked for nine months, said our case would be ready in nine months. Venezuela said their’s would be ready between one year and a year and a half.”
“And the Court has more or less come down in the middle. So, the Venezuelans can’t complain that 12 months is too short, because they did propose 12 months,” Greenidge, who formerly served as Foreign Minister until 2019, explained.
According to Greenidge, who currently also serves as Advisor on Borders in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is felt that the time period granted by the Court is longer than necessary. However, he assured that they will work with the timeframe and that Guyana, indeed, will be ready for its day in court.
“Especially because, as things stand, it is unlikely that Venezuela will participate. So that makes it, perhaps, worrying that notice could be taken of what they requested. But they’ve been given the time. Let’s see what they will do with it.”
“Because as you know, we don’t believe they have a case. And if you give them two years it still won’t make a difference because they’re still going to try to prolong the exercise. That is their purpose. We would prefer to have it over a shorter period,” Greenidge said, while adding that Guyana will, nevertheless, be prepared.
Guyana approached the World Court in 2018 seeking a final and binding judgement to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties, and legal affirmation that Guyana’s Essequibo region, which contains much of Guyana’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.
Guyana’s March 2018 application to the ICJ was filed based on the recommendation of the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, following a failed good offices process between the neighbouring states.
In a majority decision on December 18, 2020, the ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction to adjudicate over the border controversy case. This was after Venezuela, which has refused to participate in the legal proceedings, wrote the Court to say that the UN SG exceeded his authority under the 1966 Geneva Agreement when he referred the case to the ICJ, and therefore the Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter.
The ICJ found that both Guyana and Venezuela consented to judicial settlement when they signed the Geneva Agreement since the judicial process via the ICJ is one of the means available to the Secretary General to bring an end to the controversy. Hence, the Court’s decision is binding on both parties.
In recent times, however, Guyana has been forced to endure a ramping up of aggression by the Venezuelans, including incursions into Guyana’s maritime and airspace. The most recent of these incursions was earlier this month, when two Russian-made Sukhoi SU-30 fighter jets belonging to Venezuela flew over the Region Seven village of Eteringbang.
This occurred a little over a month after Venezuela illegally detained 12 local fishermen in Guyana’s maritime space. The vessels, Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf, and their crews were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) when they were intercepted by a Venezuelan naval vessel illegally traversing Guyana’s waters.
After a local and international outcry that included Venezuela being summoned to the Organisation of American States (OAS) Permanent Council, the fishermen were released and returned home.