October 3 marks the 124th anniversary of the Arbitral Award of 1899, which established the land boundary between then British Guiana and Venezuela. The Guyana government in a statement reaffirmed its commitment to upholding the Arbitral Award’s validity and respect for international law as the controversy with Venezuela continues.
Guyana reminded that in 1897, the Treaty of Washington was signed, leading to the submission of the “boundary dispute” between Great Britain and Venezuela to binding arbitration. A tribunal consisting of eminent jurists, including the heads of the United States and Great Britain’s judiciary, was appointed. Both parties agreed to accept the tribunal’s decision as a “full, perfect, and final settlement” of the issue.
On October 3, 1899, the Arbitral Tribunal delivered its Award, which resolved the territorial claims in meticulous detail, involving extensive written submissions and over 200 hours of oral hearings. For over six decades, Venezuela recognized and adhered to the 1899 Award as a definitive resolution, even participating in joint boundary demarcation between 1900 and 1905.
However, in 1962, as British Guiana was on the verge of gaining independence, Venezuela abruptly abandoned the rule of law and asserted claims to the Essequibo territory. This led to a long-standing battle that continues today.
In response to Venezuela’s contentions, Guyana initiated proceedings against Venezuela at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on March 29, 2018. Guyana sought a resolution to the controversy arising from Venezuela’s assertion that the 1899 Arbitral Award was “null and void.”
Guyana continues to maintain its firm belief in the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award.
Its government said it remains committed to a peaceful and final settlement through adherence to international law and the ICJ’s procedures even as Venezuela ramps up threats.