Commonwealth Secretary General wary of Venezuela’s compliance with World Court; OAS, Jamaica, Bahamas urge respect for international law

Last Updated on Friday, 1 December 2023, 16:03 by Denis Chabrol

Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland.

Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland on Friday said they were worried that Venezuela would disobey the World Court’s order and go ahead with Sunday’s referendum that could set the stage for the seizure of Guyana’s Essequibo County.

“While all states are encouraged to consult their citizenry, the Commonwealth notes with deep concern that the planned referendum on 3rd December in Venezuela will challenge the ICJ’s jurisdiction, propose a formal annexation of the Essequibo territory, give Venezuelan citizenship and national identity cards to nationals of Guyana in the region under dispute, potentially be a license to violate the territorial integrity of Guyana and constitute an aggravation of the dispute which the 1st December 2023 decision of the ICJ discourages,” Ms Scotland said.

The Secretary General of the 56-nation Commonwealth called on all members of the United Nations to encourage the parties to respect the integrity, sanctity and binding nature of the decisions of the ICJ in this matter and the provisional measures under Article 41 of the Statute of the ICJ that have binding effect and create international legal obligations for parties.

The Commonwealth, she said,  reiterates its collective faith in due process, respect for national territorial sovereignty, international law, global order, peace and security and cordial international relations in the Caribbean and the Latin American region.

Venezuela has claimed victory in the ICJ ruling, although it does not believe that court has jurisdiction to settle the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the boundary with Guyana, but has not said whether it would obey the order. Rather, the Venezuelan government on Friday said it would be going ahead with Sunday’s referendum that seeks a ‘yes’ vote to annex Essequibo County and formally endorse government’s decision against the ICJ.

The Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, for his part called on the Nicolas Maduro administration to comply with the World Court’s order that prohibits Venezuela from taking any action, which would modify the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute, whereby the Cooperative Republic of Guyana administers and exercises control over that area.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.

“We consider the ICJ decision as fundamental in requesting Venezuela to refrain from all provocative, warmongering, and illegal actions that encroach on the established boundaries of Guyana’s territory. The Court’s decision is binding & must be respected by the Venezuelan regime,” he said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Meanwhile, Jamaica and Bahamas issued separate statements urged Venezuela to obey he ICJ’s order. Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith  said the court’s order which bars Venezuela from taking any action that would change Guyana’s control of Essequibo would have a bearing on the  referendum. “This would have direct implications for the planned holding of a referendum by Venezuela on December 3,” she said. Jamaica also welcomed President Irfaan Ali’s call for Venezuela to demonstrate respect for international law and the principles that govern peaceful coexistence. The Jamaican Foreign Minister said Kingston viewed the ICJ adjudication process as a “positive signal towards a peaceful resolution on this issue, and one which will give validity to future outcomes.”

The Bahamas’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that in line with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), “observes the importance of this decision in maintaining regional stability and upholding international law.”  “The Bahamas will continue advocating for peaceful dialogue and respect for the ICJ’s ongoing processes in this matter, reaffirming our commitment to a diplomatic solution,” The Bahamas government added.