‘Lengthy allegations and rhetoric with no substance’
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The delegation and legal team representing Guyana at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after the final round of arguments in the border controversy case with Venezuela
The delegation and legal team representing Guyana at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after the final round of arguments in the border controversy case with Venezuela

-Greenidge says Venezuela’s objections in border case ‘a delay tactic’

AGENT for Guyana, Carl Greenidge, on Tuesday told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Venezuela is using its preliminary objections as a delay tactic because it does not want the court to determine the merits of Guyana’s claims.

This was part of Greenidge’s submission during the second round of oral arguments in the border controversy case, which concluded at the ‘World Court’ in The Hague, Netherlands, on Tuesday.

The court will soon issue a judgement on Venezuela’s preliminary objections.

Greenidge during the court hearing said that Venezuela’s arguments in support of its preliminary objections, have been nothing more than lengthy allegations and rhetoric, which were short on substance.

He submitted that Venezuela is sincerely concerned that the judgment on those claims will involve a determination of the rights and obligations of the United Kingdom.

“Is it because Venezuela recognises that the legal and factual merits of Guyana’s claims are overwhelming and that a hearing on the merits of those claims will yield only one possible outcome?” Greenidge questioned.

He added that on Monday, the agent for Venezuela emphatically proclaimed to the ICJ that the Spanish-speaking country had established the truth about “historic wrongs “committed against it by the 1899 Award.

“He [Venezuela’s agent] declared that, and I quote, ‘We come to the International Court of Justice to tell such a historical truth.’ In the same breath, he also stressed Venezuela’s firm commitment to international law. However, despite these impassioned proclamations, Venezuela remains strangely reluctant for the merits of its version of the truth to be exposed to independent scrutiny and determination, in accordance with international law by the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. As Guyana has shown, Venezuela’s position is contradicted by the historical record, including its enthusiastic and decades-long embrace,” Greenidge said.

He submitted that the award and the boundary which established Venezuela’s narrative, which began shortly before Guyana’s independence in 1966, ignores these fundamental contradictions and constantly evolves to fit the country’s meritless contentions.

Greenidge added that Venezuela even claimed that it had been “dispossessed of territory” by the arbitral award.

“Against this backdrop, one cannot escape the conclusion that it is a desire to continue perpetuating a falsehood, rather than a desire to expose and vindicate the truth that underlies Venezuela’s hostility to the court hearing Guyana’s claims.

“Instead of proceeding to determine the merits of Guyana’s claims, Venezuela urges the court to decline to exercise jurisdiction, so that the dispute between the parties could instead be resolved through a process of negotiation,” the agent for Guyana said.

He pointed out that by making that argument, Venezuela once again invites the ICJ to create a “perpetual deadlock” and the indefinite continuation of a controversy, which has “blighted” relations for the entirety of Guyana’s existence as a sovereign state.

“This is not a situation where there’s even the slightest glimmer of possibility that the long-standing dispute between the parties could be resolved through negotiations. There is a simple and fundamental reason for this. As demonstrated, Guyana and Venezuela hold entirely intractable opposing positions regarding the validity of the 1899 Award.

“Guyana maintains that the 1899 Award and the boundary which is established are valid. Venezuela maintains the opposite. These positions have been entrenched since Guyana’s emergence as a sovereign state some 56 years ago. All previous efforts to resolve the controversy through mediation or negotiation have failed,” Greenidge submitted.

To this end, he explained that these efforts included a four-year mixed commission and an intensive 27-year Good Offices Process involving no fewer than four successive Secretaries-General, including a final year of enhanced mediation.

The present Good Offices Process has been conducted since 1990. Venezuela is contending that the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899, demarcating the border between Guyana (British Guiana at the time) and Venezuela is null and void. Consequently, it continues to lay claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

However, he said after more than half a century of unsuccessful attempts to resolve the dispute through mediation and negotiation processes in which Guyana engaged “wholeheartedly,” the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, concluded that significant progress has not been made towards arriving at a full agreement for solution of the controversy.

According to Greenidge, it was for this reason that the Secretary-General chose the ICJ as the “only hope” of a resolution of the controversy, which lies in the binding and final determination of Guyana’s claims by this court.

“It is for this reason that Guyana brought those claims before the court in 2018. And it is for this reason that Guyana once again affirms its complete faith and confidence that the court will proceed to adjudicate those claims independently, impartially and in accordance with international law,” he advanced to the court.

In closing Guyana’s oral pleadings, Greenidge asked the court to reject Venezuela’s preliminary objections as “inadmissible.”

Meanwhile, Professor Ordinaire, Université Catholique de Louvain and member of the Institut de Droit International, Foley Hoag, LLP and the Bar of Brussels, Pierre d’Argent, in his submissions earlier in the day, called on the court to dismiss Venezuela’s claim which is aimed at stalling Guyana’s substantive application.

“…. in challenging the admissibility of the permanent objections, Guyana is simply saying that there are serious procedural reasons why the court should not examine their merits saying that Venezuela’s objection,” Professor d’Argent said.

Another member of Guyana’s legal team, Professor Philippe Sands, KC, addressed the legal standard under the monetary gold argument and the fact that the UK is not an indispensable third party to the proceedings.

Venezuela had contended that the country is the “sole indisputable inheritor” of the Essequibo region and the Monetary Gold Principle.

Although Venezuela had claimed that the ICJ did not have jurisdiction to hear the substantive case, the country made a U-turn following the court’s December 2020 ruling on its jurisdiction to hear the case. Venezuela on that occasion contended that Guyana has no standing in the matter.

Venezuela argued that the United Kingdom is the proper party, since the territory was “given” to Guyana by the British.

“The court heard not a single word about the wrongful conduct of the arbitrators. And now the case was entirely about the wrongful conduct of the United Kingdom,” he added.

According to Sands, if the arbitral award was set aside by the ICJ, Venezuela would be able to claim reparations from the UK for “exploiting territory” that belonged to the country.

He said this was Venezuela’s “desperate attempt to manufacture some sort of legal interest in the United Kingdom.”

“But this new argument changes nothing in the first place. As we’ve made clear, the court is not required to rule in a legal sense on the United Kingdom’s conduct at all. It is only required to rule on the conduct of the arbitrators in issuing its judgment on the validity of the 1899 Award,” Professor Sands said.

He added that Venezuela has admitted repeatedly that the UK has no legal interest in the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela.

As a consequence, Professor Sands said that Venezuela should admit that the ICJ is entirely free to exercise its jurisdiction to hear the case.

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