ICJ President says court to provide decision to parties soon

The public hearings into the case relating to the 1899 Arbitral Award between Guyana and Venezuela culminated on Wednesday at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at Peace Palace in The Hague.  

The request for the indication of provisional measures, which Guyana presented on October 27, 2023, was the focus of these hearings, which took place on November 14 and 15, 2023. 

On Wednesday, ICJ President, Judge Joan Donoghue highlighted that the agents of the parties will be advised in due course as to the day on which the court will deliberate its order in the public sitting.

In accordance with the usual practice, Judge Donoghue noted that “I shall request both agents to remain at the court’s disposal to provide any additional information the court may require. The court will render its order on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Guyana as soon as possible.”

During public hearings on Tuesday, Guyana asked the ICJ to issue five provisional measures to block Venezuela’s planned referendum and uphold the rule of law.

Guyana has asked for five provisional measures, which will be in place until the court renders a decision on the main issue involving the border controversy. Guyana is pleased that it had a full chance to argue its case before the court, and, hopefully, it will rule in its favour in conformity with international law.

Guyana requested that Venezuela be ordered to refrain from executing any of the actions that the referendum would call for.

These include the creation of a new state consisting of Guyana’s Essequibo region and incorporating it into Venezuela’s territory, or giving the population identity cards or citizenship in Venezuela.

These actions would amount to an unlawful annexation of Guyana’s territory, in violation of the United Nations Charter’s core principles of international law.

Furthermore, by giving the ICJ a fait accompli before it had a chance to pronounce on Guyana’s claim of sovereignty over the area, such activities would usurp the court’s jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the single round of oral arguments culminated on Wednesday with Venezuela presenting its argument for the court to reject Guyana’s request for provisional measures.

For context, on September 21, 2023, the National Assembly of Venezuela put forward five questions for a consultative referendum that it hopes to hold with the country’s citizens.

The National Electoral Council of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela released these questions to be posed in the national referendum set for December 3, 2023, in support of that resolution.

The purpose of these questions is to garner support for a set of measures that include the annexation of Essequibo and its incorporation into Venezuela as a new state, the definitive and final rejection of the 1899 Arbitral Award, and the issuance of national identity cards, and Venezuelan citizenship to the populace.

Guyana applied to the ICJ in 2018 to have the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the border between Venezuela and the then-British Guiana, confirmed as legally enforceable. The 1899 ruling was likewise cited in this application as a ‘full, perfect, and final settlement’ of all issues pertaining to drawing the borders between Venezuela and the British Guiana province.

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