4 avril 2018

ACTU : Guyana files an application against Venezuela with the ICJ

Catherine MAIA

On 29 March 2018, the Co-operative Republic of Guyana (hereinafter “Guyana”) filed an application against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (hereinafter “Venezuela”) with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

In its Application, Guyana requests the Court “to confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the Award Regarding the Boundary between the Colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela, of 3 October 1899 (hereinafter the ‘1899 Award’)”. The Applicant claims that the 1899 Award was “a full, perfect, and final settlement” of all questions relating to determining the boundary line between the colony of British Guiana and Venezuela.

Guyana affirms that, between November 1900 and June 1904, a joint Anglo-Venezuelan Boundary Commission “identified, demarcated and permanently fixed the boundary established by the . . . Award” before the signing of a Joint Declaration by the Commissioners on 10 January 1905 (referred to by Guyana as the “1905 Agreement”).

Guyana contends that, in 1962, for the first time, Venezuela contested the Award as “arbitrary” and “null and void”. This, according to the Applicant, led to the signing of the Agreement to resolve the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland over the frontier between Venezuela and British Guiana at Geneva on 17 February 1966 (hereinafter the “Geneva Agreement”), which “provided for recourse to a series of dispute settlement mechanisms to finally resolve the controversy”.

Guyana submits that the Geneva Agreement authorized the United Nations Secretary-General to decide which appropriate dispute resolution mechanism to adopt for the peaceful settlement of the dispute, in accordance with Article 33 of the United Nations Charter. The Applicant further argues that:
“On 30 January 2018, . . . Secretary-General [H.E.] António Guterres determined that the Good Offices Process had failed to achieve a peaceful settlement of the controversy. He then took a formal and binding decision, under Article IV, paragraph 2 of the Agreement, to choose a different means of settlement under Article 33 of the Charter. In identical letters to both Parties, he communicated the terms of his decision that, pursuant to the authority vested in him by the Geneva Agreement, the controversy shall be settled by recourse to the International Court of Justice.”
Guyana states that it “files [the] Application pursuant to the Secretary-General’s decision”.

In its Application, Guyana requests the Court to adjudge and declare that:

“(a) The 1899 Award is valid and binding upon Guyana and Venezuela, and the boundary established by that Award and the 1905 Agreement is valid and binding upon Guyana and Venezuela;

(b) Guyana enjoys full sovereignty over the territory between the Essequibo River and the boundary established by the 1899 Award and the 1905 Agreement, and Venezuela enjoys full sovereignty over the territory west of that boundary; Guyana and Venezuela are under an obligation to fully respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with the boundary established by the 1899 Award and the 1905 Agreement;

(c) Venezuela shall immediately withdraw from and cease its occupation of the eastern half of the Island of Ankoko, and each and every other territory which is recognized as Guyana’s sovereign territory in accordance with the 1899 Award and 1905 Agreement;

(d) Venezuela shall refrain from threatening or using force against any person and/or company licensed by Guyana or engage in economic or commercial activity in Guyanese territory as determined by the 1899 Award and 1905 Agreement, or in any maritime areas appurtenant to such territory over which Guyana has sovereignty or exercises sovereign rights, and shall not interfere with any Guyanese or Guyanese-authorised activities in those areas;

(e) Venezuela is internationally responsible for violations of Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights, and for all injuries suffered by Guyana as a consequence.”

Source : ICJ

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