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Guyana asks World Court to move ahead with border case

after Venezuela fails to submit counter memorial on jurisdiction

  • Stabroek News
  • 19 Apr 2019

Following Venezuela’s continued refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Guyana has asked the Court to move forward with the case “at the earliest possible date.”

“Guyana has decided to ask the Court to proceed directly to the holding of oral hearings, at the earliest possible date, to determine its jurisdiction over the case…confident that the Court will agree that it has jurisdiction, and then proceed to decide on the merits of Guyana’s suit,” a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said.

The statement noted that although the ICJ fixed 18 April 2019 as the date for Venezuela to submit a Counter-Memorial on Jurisdiction, in response to Guyana’s Memorial filed on November 19,2018, Venezuela failed to make a submission on that date, and indicated in a letter from its Foreign Minister that it had chosen not do so.

According to a press release from the Venezuelan Ministry of External Affairs the letter submitted to ICJ Secretary Philippe Couvreur on April 15 states that “the Bolivarian Republic reiterates its non-appearance in said proceeding as it considers, in full exercise of its sovereignty, that the Court manifestly lacks jurisdiction over the case, being the subject of the demand of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana inadmissible.”

It goes on to state that notwithstanding its refusal to engage the court “out of respect for the Court and in accordance with other precedents…Venezuela will be ready to provide the Court with information on the basis of its position, in order to assist it in complying with the duty imposed by Article 53.2 of its Statute.”

Guyana submitted the case to the Court on March 29 after the Secretary General of the United Nations determined, in keeping with his authority under the Geneva Agreement of 1966 that the controversy over the validity of the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899, and the resulting boundary, must be decided by the Court.

The Ministry maintains that that this determination constitutes a sufficient jurisdictional basis for the Court to proceed but Venezuela has rejected this position.

Following the initial rejection in June 2018 the World Court said that written pleadings in the matter must first address the question of its jurisdiction.

In a press release posted on its website in July the ICJ said by an Order, dated 19th June, 2018, the Court fixed November 19th, 2018 and April 18th, 2019, as the respective time-limits for the entering of a memorial by Guyana and a counter-memorial by Venezuela.

The Ministry in its statement yesterday said that it regrets that Venezuela, notwithstanding its obligations under the Geneva Agreement and the Secretary General’s decision to refer the matter to the Court, has chosen not to participate in the case. It also noted that as the Court itself has made clear, the door remains open to Venezuela to join in the proceedings, which will continue to a final and legally-binding judgment, pursuant to the Court’s rules, whether Venezuela participates or not.

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