Ruling on jurisdiction in Guyana-Venezuela border controversy case likely by year-end – Greenidge

Advisor on Border Carl Greenidge
Advisor on Borders, Carl Greenidge

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is likely to rule by the end of 2020 on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case filed by Guyana, who is asking for a final pronouncement on the validity of the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela) regarding the boundary between the two countries.

This is according to recently appointed Advisor on Borders, Carl Greenidge.

On June 30, 2020, the ICJ, which has its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, heard oral arguments via video conference from Guyana’s legal team headed by Sir Shridath Ramphal on the question of its jurisdiction to adjudicate in the matter.

The case is premised on a border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela in which the Spanish-speaking country has laid claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in the Essequibo region and a portion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which more than eight billion barrels of oil have been discovered.

When contacted on Thursday, Greenidge told Inews that such cases could take an average of up to six years to conclude, while noting that it depends on the complexity of the case and whether both countries participate in the proceedings.

“On average, the court takes about six years plus to conclude such matters. Yes, it can take as long as six years. It depends on how complex the case is. [As it relates to when the court is] due for its decision as it regards to jurisdiction…one would expect sometime between now and this quarter,” the Advisor on Borders noted.

The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has claimed, in a letter to the ICJ, that the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, 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.

On this basis, Venezuela has indicated that it will not participate in the proceedings. However, Greenidge said he is still hopeful that the Spanish-speaking nation would participate in the matter.

“…We [Guyana] have the arguments that we have presented to the court. Given how we have arrived at this point, Venezuela is not in a position to say that they are not bound by the decision of the court, because they have agreed to a process, they have participated in the process up to now. Whether or not [Venezuela] participates, it makes no difference to the capacity of the court…,” Greenidge emphasised.

The Agreement to resolve the controversy over the frontier between Venezuela and British Guiana, commonly known as the Geneva Agreement, is a treaty signed in Geneva, Switzerland, on February 17, 1966 that resolved the disagreement between Venezuela and the United Kingdom regarding the border between Venezuela and British Guiana.

On March 29, 2018, Guyana filed an application instituting proceeding against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. In its application, Guyana requested the Court to confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the Award regarding the boundary between the Colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela, of October 03, 1899.

Guyana claimed that the 1899 Award was “a full, perfect, and final settlement’ of all questions relating to determining the boundary line between the colony of British Guiana and Venezuela.