OAS calls on Venezuela to release Guyanese fishing vessels, crews; insists they were in Guyana’s waters

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 January 2021, 13:24 by Denis Chabrol

The Organisation of American States (OAS) on Wednesday called on Venezuela to safely release the 11 Guyanese crew members and two fishing boats, even as that Western Hemispheric organisation backed Guyana’s position that the vessels were in Guyana’s waters when the Venezuelan Navy intercepted them one week ago.

“The General Secretariat demands that the Guyanese citizens are released promptly and safely to Guyanese authorities, as well as the two detained vessels,” the OAS said.

The OAS called the detention “illegal” because the vessels were within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and described the administration of President Nicolas Maduro as a “dictatorship” that violated international law by seeking to unilaterally extend Venezuela’s maritime boundary to take in all of the waters off the Essequibo Region up to the eastern bank of the Essequibo Region.

The OAS, in apparent reference to the case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award that settled the land boundary  between Guyana and Venezuela, suggested that process could not be substituted by issuing a decree to determine international boundaries between States.

“Any attempt to derail this international legal process, such as the decree issued by the Maduro regime, is contrary to international law and standards, and has no legal bearing or significance,” the OAS said.

The OAS said it reiterates its support for the rules and processes set by international law regarding ongoing territorial conflicts. “The resolution of the territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana is a matter that lies under international jurisdiction, and cannot be settled by unilateral actions,” the OAS added.

In two statements issued so far after the vessels were  intercepted on January 21, Venezuela maintained that it would not allow anyone to trespass on its sea space.

Venezuela’s latest acts of aggression against Guyana have followed the ICJ’s decision that it has jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s case. Venezuela maintains that that United Nations court does not have jurisdiction and that the two countries should resume bilateral negotiations, a process that Guyana says has not worked for 50 years.