Guyana seeks ICJ's protection: Help prevent Venezuela's December 3 referendum

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.  -
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. -

NARISSA FRASER AND GREVIC ALVARADO

EVEN as the Guyana/Venezuela territorial dispute is before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Guyana is now seeking further intervention from the court to prevent Venezuela's December 3 referendum on the matter.

For over a century, both countries have been at odds when it comes to which truly can claim the Essequibo region, which is rich in natural resources. It is currently controlled by Guyana.

An arbitrary award in 1899 granted the Orinoco River, as well as the land on both sides, to Venezuela and to Guyana – which was under British control at the time – east extending to the Essequibo River.

However, Venezuela rejects this. Its government recently began circulating five questions to be asked to the public, centred on opposing Guyana's claims. A total of 20.6 million are eligible to vote.

In a press release on Tuesday, the ICJ said it received a request by the Guyanese government on Monday to implore "provisional measures" against Venezuela.

In the document, dated October 27, Guyana explains it believes the purpose of Venezuela's questions "is to obtain responses that would support (its) decision to abandon these proceedings, and to resort instead to unilateral measures to 'resolve' the controversy with Guyana by formally annexing and integrating into Venezuela all of the territory at issue in these proceedings, which comprises more than two-thirds of Guyana."

It added, "Guyana seeks protection for its rights to the territory awarded to it by the 1899 arbitrary award, pending the court's determination of the validity of the award, or, alternatively, the settlement by the court of the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela."

Guyana believes if Venezuela proceeds, "the harm to (us) would be irreparable.

"The need for provisional measures could not be more urgent."

It said the area was awarded to Guyana "with Venezuela's unconditional acceptance, and which the rest of the world recognises as Guyana's sovereign territory."

The Essequibo region is commonly taught in Venezuela as belonging to that country, even with maps including it.

Venezuela: Request 'laughable'

At a press conference on Tuesday, Venezuelan vice president Delcy Rodriguez said Guyana's request to the ICJ is laughable, adding that it "intends to violate our Constitution."

"They intend to give orders to Venezuela...They are violating the Charter of the United Nations, they are violating the right to self-determination of the people."

“Venezuela is going to defend its territory. Do not believe the ICJ is going to give you the solution."

She added that since Guyana has worked with the US Southern command, that equates to "establishing themselves as partners to attack Venezuela.

"Guyana remains on the path of illegality."

On Friday, Guyana's Parliament will have an extraordinary sitting at 10am to consider a motion on the dispute. Caricom and the Organization of American States (OAS) have since pledged their support to Guyana.

Guyana President Dr Irfaan Ali - File photo/Angelo Marcelle

Venezuela's five questions:

1) Do you agree to reject by all means, in accordance with the law, the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899, which seeks to deprive us of our Guyana Essequibo?

2) Do you support the Geneva Agreement of 1966 as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana regarding the controversy over the territory of Essequibo?

3) Do you agree with Venezuela's historical position of not recognising the jurisdiction of the ICJ to resolve the territorial controversy over Essequibo?

4) Do you agree to oppose, by all legal means, Guyana's claim to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation, illegally and in violation of international law?

5) Do you agree with the creation of the Essequibo state and the development of an accelerated plan for comprehensive care for the current and future population of that territory that includes, among others, the granting of citizenship and a Venezuelan identity card, in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and international law, consequently incorporating said state on the map of Venezuelan territory?

Guyana's requested provisional to the ICJ

1) Venezuela shall not proceed with the Consultative Referendum planned for 3 December 2023 in its present form

2) In particular, Venezuela shall not include the first, third or fifth questions in the Consultative Referendum

3) Nor shall Venezuela include within the consultative referendum planned or any other public referendum, any question (on) the legal issues to be determined by the court in its judgement on the merits, including but not limited to:

a. the legal validity and binding effect of the 1899 Award

b. sovereignty over the territory between the Essequibo River, and the boundary established by the 1899 Award and the 1905 Agreement

c. the purported creation of the State of "Guayana Esequiba" and any associated measures, including the granting of Venezuelan citizenship and national identity cards.

4) Venezuela shall not take any actions that are intended to prepare or allow the exercise of sovereignty or de facto control over any territory that was awarded to British Guiana in the 1899 Arbitral Award.

5) Venezuela shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.

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