Venezuela’s claims not supported by law, history – AG Nandlall

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, has asserted that Venezuela’s claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory is not supported by history, international law, or any legally substantive grounds.

The attorney general was speaking at a symposium hosted by The Bar Association of Guyana at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on Monday evening.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC

“Venezuela’s claim is not and cannot be supported by recorded history, it is not supported by international law, or international diplomacy and the international legal process. The recorded history of our country and of South America vividly illustrates that Essequibo was never under Spanish influence,” he pointed out.

He stated that for more than a century, the Essequibo was under the colonial control of the Dutch and as such, existed before the establishment of Venezuela. In the early 1800s, the Spanish-speaking country was known as ‘Gran Colombia’, comprising of Colombia and Panama.

Venezuela’s claim to the region hinges on a posthumous memorandum purportedly written in 1944 by a junior member of Venezuela’s legal team at the 1899 arbitration, Severo Mallet-Provost. The memorandum claimed that the Award was the product of a deal between the two British arbitrators and the President of the Tribunal. These claims are yet to be proven.

“Absolutely not a scintilla of evidence that can stand up in a court of municipal law, moreso international law has been produced to impugn, invalidate or even shake the legal foundation of the Arbitral Award . If Venezuela is to get away with this gimmick, it will bring into question, dozens of international disputes similarly resolved by arbitration, mediation, conciliation and other peaceful methods of resolving disputes. International law and the international legal process will never countenance Venezuela’s contention and allow it to succeed,” AG Nandlall said.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, addressing the symposium

On Friday last, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ruled that Venezuela shall refrain from taking any action that would affect Guyana’s control of its Essequibo region, pending the court’s final decision in the border controversy case.

This ruling came in response to Guyana’s request for provisional measures to prevent Guyana’s Essequibo region from being annexed by any means, stemming from the questions posed in Venezuela’s referendum.

The judgement delivered by the ICJ is legally binding.

Outlining the mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with the ICJ rulings, the attorney general said that Article 94 of the United Nations Charter imposes the responsibility on each member to comply with the decisions of the ICJ.

A section of the gathering at the symposium

According to the AG, while the ICJ does not have any direct means of enforcing its decisions, a range of mechanisms can be employed to promote compliance, such as through the United Nations Security Council, on which Guyana will assume its place in January. The UNSC is empowered to take special measures to enforce judgements handed down by the ICJ through a range of measures, such as economic sanctions and travel restrictions. 

“I don’t believe that the international community will allow the ICJ’s order to be ignored. If that happens, it will strike at the very foundation of the international legal process. It will strike at the foundation of global legal order. It will strike at the heart of the United Nations itself,” the attorney general stressed.

The other panellists at the symposium were Dr Kim Kyte-Thomas, Attorney-at-Law, and Ralph Ramkarran, SC, Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Borders.

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