World Court to set timelines for submissions in Guyana-Venezuela border case

International Court of Justice
ICJ President Judge Joan Donoghue

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is expected to set various timelines by which Guyana and Venezuela will have to make their respective submissions in the border controversy case.

This was the outcome of a case management conference held on Friday. It was a virtual private hearing and was presided over by newly elected ICJ President, United States Judge Joan Donoghue.

Guyana was represented by Agent Carl Greenidge and Co-Agents Sir Shridath Ramphal and Audrey Waddell along with international lawyer Paul Reichler and from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Permanent Secretary Ambassador Elisabeth Harper and Attorney Onika Archer.

While the World Court has already established that it has jurisdiction to hear the substantive case, Venezuela continues to maintain that the World Court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Despite this, however, a team from the Spanish-speaking nation was present during Friday’s hearing. Venezuela’s representatives included Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as well as the country’s Attorney General and a British lawyer.

When contacted, Greenidge related that the meeting went well and the two sides were given the opportunity to speak.

“The Court is now going to retire and the President will take to the other Judges [on the ICJ panel] the discussions, and make recommendations to them about how long each of the two sides should be given to prepare their submissions,” he noted.

This publication understands that while Guyana would have asked for less than a year, Venezuela has requested almost two years’ time.

Guyana Border Case Agent Carl Greenidge

Nevertheless, Greenidge said that they are expecting these timelines within the next two weeks.

“The Court will choose and make a decision [on the timelines] … But we hope to have the decision within a week or so. We hope that the Court will notify us within a week or so,” the Agent on the Border case posited.

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 as well as legal affirmation that Guyana’s Essequibo region, which contains much of the country’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.

However, on January 7, 2021, the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela issued a decree claiming sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River – a move which President Dr Irfaan Ali has staunchly rejected.

The Guyanese leader declared on January 9 that Venezuela’s maritime border claim is a “legal nullity” that will not be recognised by Guyana or any other State in the world. He added that while this latest move by the Spanish-speaking nation is “deeply disturbing”, it will not deter Guyana’s resolve to seek a final and binding resolution at the ICJ.

However, in the past few days, there has been an escalation of tension, brought on by Venezuela’s detention of the 11-member crew of two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels – the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf – off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The men were eventually released upon the direction of President Maduro and have since returned safely to Guyana’s shore.