Guyana prepared for submission on ICJ jurisdiction in border case -Greenidge

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Carl Greenidge, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister

The lawyers representing Guyana in the case against Venezuela before the International Court of Justice have prepared the memorial and are ready to make their submission on November 19.

This was confirmed by Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge who explained to OilNOW that the memorial is essentially a compilation of Guyana’s views and arguments regarding the jurisdiction of the ICJ in this case.

The ICJ had decided that the written pleadings in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela) must first address the question of jurisdiction.

This was necessary since the Venezuelan government said “the Court manifestly lacks jurisdiction” and that the country will not take part in the proceedings.

The subject of “jurisdiction” is whether a court can hear a case on a particular issue.

The ICJ, which is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, says its jurisdiction is twofold: it decides, in accordance with international law, disputes of a legal nature that are submitted to it by States and it gives advisory opinions on legal questions at the request of UN agencies.

Meanwhile, Minister Greenidge has indicated that the Venezuelans have until April 18, 2019 to counter the case.

“After that, the Court will reflect on the matter and invite oral presentations which may take a few weeks,” he told OilNOW.

At his latest press encounter earlier this month, Greenidge had explained that “…if Venezuela cares not to make the submission, it makes no difference; the only consequence there will be is that the process will finish more quickly…”

Venezuela says it will not participate in ICJ proceedings

In an order issued on June 19 last, the court noted that “the possibility for Venezuela of availing itself of its procedural rights as a Party to the case is preserved.”

This means that the country may still make submissions, notwithstanding its decision not to participate.

Guyana’s legal team is headed by Sir Shridath Ramphal, and comprises overseas-based lawyers and those attached at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Guyana/Venezuela border controversy began around the second half of the 19th century, between Venezuela and Great Britain. This continued until an Arbitral Tribunal issued an Arbitral Award on October 3, 1899— an agreement that was honoured by the Spanish speaking country for half a century.

A concrete marker many years later was erected following the work of a boundary commission with representatives from Great Britain, Venezuela and Brazil on the specific point on Mount Roraima where the boundaries met.

Venezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Esteban Gil Borges in 1941 even agreed that the frontier with British Guiana was well defined and was a closed issue.

But that country’s renewed claim over Guyanese territory followed a letter from Lawyer Mallet Prevost, posthumously challenging the validity of the award; claiming it was the result of a political deal between the UK and Russia. At the time he refused to make the memorandum public and instructed that it should be published until after his death.  Mallet-Prevost eventually died on the December 12, 1948, and in July 1949 the memorandum was published.

And for nearly three decades after, Guyana and Venezuela had been locked in the Good Offices Process of the United Nations Secretary General designed to find a solution to the controversy.

Reaping no success, in September 2014, Guyana informed then Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon that it had lost confidence in the process.

In September 2015, Guyana’s President Ret’d Brig David Granger, called upon the Secretary General to have Venezuela’s contention finally settled judicially.

On year later, Mr. Ban and his Successor Antonio Guterres recommended that the Good Offices Process continue for one final year, failing which the matter would be forwarded to the International Court of Justice.

The Maduro administration expanded its claim to Guyana’s territory after US oil major ExxonMobil discovered crude off the Guyana coast in 2015. A decree issued by Venezuela laid claim to large swaths of Guyana’s maritime space including its oil rich waters following the announcement of the world class Liza discovery.