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Guyana-Venezuela border case further delayed as ICJ extends COVID-19-related closure

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has extended the period during which no hearings or judicial meetings will be held due to the ongoing COVD-19 pandemic, to the end of May, according to a press release from the Court issued on April 7.

This development means that the proceedings related to the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela) will be further delayed. Statements were originally scheduled to have commenced being heard from Parties in the matter on March 23, 2020. However, this was pushed back due to issues related to the pandemic.

“Given the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court has decided to extend to 31 May the period during which no hearings or judicial meetings of the Court will be held. Visits are also cancelled until the end of May,” the ICJ said.

The court said the adopted measures will be subject to further review as the situation develops.

Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on March 16 had announced the postponement, stating inter alia, “The Court has further informed that it will give a decision on a new date in due time.”

The hearings were expected to give the Parties to the case the possibility to address the question of the jurisdiction of the Court. Venezuela has maintained that the ICJ has no jurisdiction to hear the case involving its claim over territory that was settled in an Award regarding the boundary between the Colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela, of October 3, 1899. Guyana is asking the ICJ to “to confirm the legal validity and binding effect” of this Award.

The border controversy between the two countries intensified after US oil major ExxonMobil discovered large quantities of oil off the Guyana coast back in 2015. The English-speaking South American country began producing oil in December last year and exploration and development activities continue offshore.

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