The Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation on the oral hearings on the Request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Guyana in the case concerning Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela)

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) today concluded public hearings in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela). These hearings, convened on 14-15 November 2023, at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court, were devoted to the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Guyana on 27 October 2023.

The case was brought to the Court by Guyana in 2018 to confirm the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award fixing the land boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana, which the parties recognized as the international boundary between then for over 60 years before Venezuela, suddenly, on the eve of Guyana’s independence, disavowed the Arbitral Award and renewed its failed claim to the territory that the five arbitrators had unanimously awarded to British Guiana. On two occasions since the case was filed, the ICJ has confirmed its jurisdiction over Guyana’s claims, and announced that it would proceed to determine the validity of the Arbitral Award and the course of the land boundary.

It will be recalled that 0n 21 September 2023, Venezuela’s National Assembly passed a resolution calling for a referendum regarding Venezuela’s unsubstantiated claim to the territory awarded to British Guiana in 1899, which has been an integral part of Guyana’s territory since independence in 1966. In furtherance of that resolution, the National Electoral Council of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela issued five questions to be asked in the national referendum scheduled for 3 December 2023.

Among the questions, all of which are intended to further Venezuela’s unlawful and unfounded claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory, questions three and five are most pernicious. Question three seeks to ratify Venezuela’s “historical position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice” as the means of settlement of the controversy, while question five brazenly seeks the approval of the Venezuelan people for the creation of a new Venezuelan State in Guyana’s Essequibo Region, which would be incorporated into the national territory of Venezuela, and the granting of Venezuelan citizenship and identification cards to the population.

In view of the impending referendum, the Government of Guyana approached the ICJ for provisional measures, specifically to request that Venezuela be ordered not to take any of the actions that would be called for by the referendum, including especially “creation” of a new Venezuelan state consisting of Guyana’s Essequibo Region and incorporating it into Venezuela’s territory, or granting Venezuelan citizenship or identity cards to the population, because these actions would amount to an unlawful annexation of Guyana’s territory, in violation of the most fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter. Moreover, such actions would usurp the jurisdiction of the ICJ by presenting it with a fait accompli before the Court has had a chance to rule on Guyana’s claim of sovereignty over the territory under the 1899 Arbitral Award.

Guyana presented its single round of oral arguments to the Court on 14 November and Venezuela presented its case on 15 November. The President of the Court has indicated that the Court will provide its decision to the Parties as soon as possible.

The Government of Guyana is pleased that Guyana was provided a full opportunity to present its case before the Court and remains optimistic that the Court will render a decision in our favour in accordance with international law.

For the purpose of these hearings the delegation of Guyana comprises:  

  • The Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall, S.C, M.P, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs;
  • Mr. Carl Greenidge, Agent of Guyana in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899;
  • Ms. Donnette Streete, Director of the Frontiers Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation;
  • Ambassador Ronald Austin, Advisor to the Leader of the Opposition on Frontier matters;
  • Mr. Lloyd Gunraj, First Secretary and Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of the Co-0perative Republic of Guyana to the Kingdom of Belgium and the European Union; and
  • Ms. Sharmayne Balram, Foreign Service Officer III, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation.

Guyana was represented in the case before the Court by:

  • Mr. Paul S. Reichler, Attorney-at-Law, Foley Hoag LLP, member of the Bars of the United States Supreme Court and the District of Columbia;
  • Mr. Alain Pellet, Professor Emeritus of the University Paris Nanterre, former Chairman of the International Law Commission, member of the Institut de droit international
  • Professor Pierre d’Argent, Professor ordinaire, Université Catholique de Louvain, member of the Institut de Droit International, Foley Hoag LLP, member of the Bar of Brussels;
  • Mr. Edward Craven, Barrister, Matrix Chambers, London;
  • Mr. Juan Pablo Hugues Arthur, Foley Hoag LLP, member of the Bar of the State of New York;
  • Ysam Soualhi, Researcher, Centre Jean Bodin (CJB), University of Angers; and
  • Ms. Heloise Bajer- Pellet, FAR Advocats.

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