World Court to open hearings on jurisdiction in Guyana-Venezuela border case on June 30

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Sir Shridath Ramphal is part of Guyana’s legal team in the border case

The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced that public hearings on the question of the Court’s jurisdiction in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela) will open on 30 June 2020.

In a press statement on Friday, the ICJ said that the hearings will commence at 2 p.m. at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court.

In view of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the hearings will take place in the Great Hall of Justice using video-conference technology and with the physical presence of some of Members of the Court, the ICJ said.

The ICJ had postponed the long-anticipated hearing of the Guyana/Venezuela border dispute case that was scheduled to begin on March 23, 2020, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

In a previous notice, ICJ had informed the parties of the schedules for the upcoming public hearings to determine whether the Court has jurisdiction to preside over the matter.

The first round of oral arguments was supposed to be held on March 23, 2020, and Guyana would have been presenting its pleadings on that day. The following day was awarded to Venezuela.

Guyana filed its case with the World Court on March 29, 2018, seeking a final and binding judgment that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between the then-British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid and binding, and that Guyana’s Essequibo region belongs to Guyana, and not Venezuela as is being claimed by the Spanish-speaking country.

The case was filed following a decision by Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, in January 2018, that the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela should be decided by the ICJ.

The Secretary General had made the decision by exercising the power vested in him in the 1966 Geneva Agreement between Guyana, Venezuela and the United Kingdom to decide how the controversy should be settled.

However, Venezuela had claimed, in a letter to the World Court, that the Secretary General exceeded his authority under the Geneva Agreement, and therefore, the Court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate the lawsuit filed by Guyana.

For the upcoming hearings, members of the media and the public will be able to follow the oral proceedings on internet through a live webstream.

The ICJ said the programme of the hearings will be announced at a later stage.