Submission of main arguments to ICJ doesn’t mean recognition of court- Venezuela

Last Updated on Monday, 8 April 2024, 17:51 by Denis Chabrol

The Venezuelan government on Monday defended its decision to submit its main arguments to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the border dispute with Guyana, saying it does not change its position of non-recognition of that United Nations (UN) judicial body.

“The delivery of this document does not imply the consent of Venezuela or the recognition of the jurisdiction of the Court in the territorial controversy over Guayana Esequiba, nor of the decision it may adopt on this matter,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Dating back to 2018 when Guyana asked the ICJ to settle the controversy over the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award, Venezuela had said it did not recognise the World Court and instead interpreted the 1966 Geneva Agreement to mean that the only means is a bilateral solution. “The only possible path to the solution of the dispute over the territory of Guyana Essequiba is the return of Guyana to the negotiating table to make effective the practical, acceptable and satisfactory arrangement for both parties, to which they committed in the Geneva Agreement. , the only binding and valid instrument between the parties to resolve this controversy.”

Venezuela said its document that was presented on Monday contains the “solid truth and the official p0sition” about Venezuela’s historical and current reasons for its sovereign right over the 160,000 square kilometre Essequibo Region.

That mineral and forest-rich region including the Atlantic sea off that area is internationally recognised as part of Guyana, but Venezuela in December 2023 held a referendum showing a controversial overwhelming majority not to recognise the ICJ, incorporate Essequibo as part of its map and take all necessary steps to take over the area.

For the time being, the ‘Organic Law for the Defence of Guayana Esequiba’ states that “until a practical and mutually acceptable solution is reached with the Cooperative Republic of Guyana regarding the dispute territorially, the seat of the Public Powers of the state of Guayana Esequiba will be the city of Tumeremo, Sifontes municipality of the state of Bolívar.”

Earlier Monday, the Guyana government welcomed Venezuela’s decision to submit its memorial to the ICJ. “Guyana has repeatedly called on Venezuela to participate fully in the judicial proceedings and comply with the Court’s rulings, and therefore welcomes Venezuela’s submissions on the substantive issues that the Court will ultimately decide,” the Foreign Ministry here said.

With Guyana having already submitted its arguments in April, 2023, Guyana said the ICJ was now in a better position to consider the submissions of both parties on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the land boundary between the two neighbouring countries. “With the submissions of both States before it, the Court will be able to take all arguments and evidence into account and issue a more informed judgement, which will be final and binding on the parties,” the Guyana government said.

However, Caracas interprets the Geneva Agreement of February 17, 1966 between Venezuela, the United Kingdom and British Guyana as one aimed at ending the territorial dispute through a practical settlement, acceptable and satisfactory to all parties. “This Agreement is in force and is the regulatory framework that must be complied with in good faith by the parties, in accordance with international law.”

After 50 years of bilateral talks Guyana, however, invoked a section of the same Geneva Agreement and asked the UN Secretary General to refer the dispute to the ICJ which he did.

Venezuela said some actions  by the ICJ in the case concerning Essequibo have fueled mistrust in that judicial body, especially taking into account the energy interests behind Guyana’s demand. The Nicolas Maduro government also said that Venezuela, which does not recognise the ICJ’s mandatory jurisdiction, was never asked for its consent before accepting and processing Guyana’s claim.

It is striking that, since 2015, Guyana, Exxon Mobil and their partners have taken as a fact a decision of the International Court of Justice in favor of their unilateral claim.

In its statement on Monday, the Venezuelan government restated its positions that the United Kingdom, United States and the US Army’s Southern Command, Central Intelligence Agency as well as the American-owned supermajor, ExxonMobil, were behind Guyana in taking the case to the ICJ. Venezuela said it would never allow itself to be extorted by a government subservient to the darkest foreign interests.