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ICJ to rule on Guyana’s request for indication of provisional measures on Friday

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On Friday 1 December 2023, the International Court of Justice will deliver its Order on the Request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Guyana on 30 October 2023 (see press release No. 2023/58) in the case concerning Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela), the court announced.

“A public sitting will take place at 3 p.m. at the Peace Palace in The Hague, during which Judge Joan E. Donoghue, President of the Court, will read the Court’s Order.

“It is recalled that on 29 March 2018, Guyana filed an Application instituting proceedings against Venezuela. In its Application, Guyana requests the Court “to confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the Award regarding the Boundary between the Colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela, of 3 October 1899,” said the International Court of Justice (ICJ) November 28, 2023.

In its request to the ICJ, Guyana has asked that an order be entered, which prevents Venezuela from taking any action to seize, acquire, encroach upon, or assert or exercise sovereignty over the Essequibo region or any other part of Guyana’s national territory, pending the court’s final determination of the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award that established the land boundary between the two states and the final and binding nature of that boundary.

In 2018, Guyana filed an application instituting proceedings against Venezuela, requesting the ICJ “to confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the Award regarding the Boundary between the Colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela, of 3 October 1899.”

However, on September 21, 2023, Venezuela’s National Assembly passed a resolution for a referendum on the territory awarded to British Guiana in 1899, now part of Guyana since its independence in 1966.

The National Electoral Council of Venezuela issued five questions for the December 3, 2023, referendum. Questions three and five are particularly concerning, aiming to support Venezuela’s baseless claim to the Essequibo region.

Question three seeks approval for Venezuela’s refusal to recognise the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the controversy, while question five seeks approval from Venezuelans to create a new state in Guyana’s Essequibo Region, incorporating it into Venezuela, and granting citizenship to the population.

The Essequibo region accounts for almost two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, with around 125,000 of the country’s 800,000 inhabitants living there.

It is against this background, that Guyana approached the ICJ for provisional measures, asking Venezuela to refrain from those actions. Such actions would unlawfully annex Guyana’s territory and violate international law principles in the UN Charter.

Moreover, such actions would usurp the jurisdiction of the ICJ by presenting it with a fait accompli before the Court has had a chance to rule on Guyana’s claim of sovereignty over the territory under the 1899 Arbitral Award.

Guyana presented its case on November 14, and Venezuela on November 15.

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