Venezuela has a year to prepare the defense of Essequibo before the ICJ

Experts recommend reconstituting the legal team and appearing before the International Court of Justice. In one year the Republic must present its arguments before that instance to avoid the loss of an important territory such as the Essequibo

Text: Reyes Theis / runrunes

The scenario that Venezuelan diplomats avoided for several decades regarding the claim of the Essequibo territory finally occurred.

This April 6 – which coincided with Holy Thursday – the judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to reject a preliminary request from Venezuelawhich tried to overthrow the Guyanese demand that this body evaluate the validity of the Arbitral Award of 1899.

That Award established the limit between these two republics, although the Venezuelan party considers it null and void and asserts that it stripped it of approximately 150,000 square kilometers.

14 judges agreed with the Guyanese argument and one with the Venezuelan. The measure means that the Essequibo case will finally be ruled by that Court and that Venezuela has 12 months to present its arguments and demonstrate the nullity of that decision made in Paris.

On November 21, 2022, Venezuela submitted the preliminary objection request and maintained that since the Arbitral Award was the product of a fraud promoted by the United Kingdom (Guyana was a colony of that nation), the British representation should be part of the process. If the legal strategy was successful, the case could start from scratch.

At his sentencing this Thursdaythe Court recalled historical milestones in the controversy in which the presence of the United Kingdom was not necessary, nor did Venezuela require it. The Court considered that the Geneva Agreement (signed in 1966 between the United Kingdom, British Guiana and Venezuela) “specifies particular roles for Guyana and Venezuela, and does not establish a role for the United Kingdom in the election or participation in the media.” settlement of the dispute.”

It also indicated that during the implementation of the good officiant mechanism, a figure that was welcomed by the parties to try to bring a solution to the case closer, “there was an agreement between the parties that the United Kingdom had no role in the dispute settlement process. differences”.

In view of this, the Court rejected the Venezuelan argument, although it left the doors open to rule “on certain conduct attributable to the United Kingdom, which cannot be determined at present” and that this “would not prevent the Court from exercising its jurisdiction, which is based on the application of the Geneva Agreement ».


Despite the fact that Venezuela introduced this unsuccessful request before the Court, in a statement read this Thursday by the Vice President of the Republic, Delcy Rodríguez, pointed out that the Republic “does not recognize the judicial mechanism as a means of resolving the aforementioned controversy inasmuch as it excludes the nature and purpose of this (Geneva) agreement.”

However, he pointed out that Venezuela “will exhaustively evaluate its implications and adopt all the measures at its disposal to defend its legitimate rights and territorial integrity.”

The vice president also announced that in the coming days President Nicolás Maduro will summon the national sectors to a dialogue and will announce the next actions.

The Venezuelan decision to not recognize the judicial route for the resolution of this case opens the questions if then the Republic will not present its arguments before the International Court of Justice.

Nevertheless, subject matter experts recommend that you do so. Retired ambassador Víctor Rodríguez Cedeño, former member of the United Nations International Law Commission, indicates that the Government must appear and “face this challenge seriously and responsibly”, in addition to preparing a countermemorial with “historians, geographers, cartographers , Venezuelan jurists who know the subject well.

Consider that It is important that the Government recognize the decision of the Court and that ignoring the sentence that emanates from that Court would be useless, since Guyana has possession of the territory.

“The competence (of the Court) and admissibility have already been declared, we only have to appear, and do it well, with national unity, consensus, serious and responsible positions that the Government has to take,” he warns.

It maintains that in order to verify the nullity of the Arbitral Award of 1899, Venezuela must show that there was a “political compromise” that he disregarded the legal arguments, as well as preparing a good defense “that says that we claim ownership.”

For his part, retired ambassador Sadio Garavini, who was head of the diplomatic mission in Guyana and author of books on the subject, warns of the negative consequences of not appearing before the Court and of ignoring the sentences.

«The Court will follow and make a decision from the point of mandatory public international law. Later you can say that you do not want to respect it, but the international community, Caricom, the Non-Aligned, will recognize it,” she warned.

He further added that After the ICJ issues the sentence, the delimitation of marine and underwater areas must be addressed (the Arbitration Award only refers to land borders), which may also fall to the same court.

*Read also Padrino reaffirms “commitment to guarantee territorial integrity” before ICJ decision

“This interests us a lot, whatever the decision on the Essequibo. Guyana has drawn an arbitrary line, which gets into the projection of the Delta Amacuro state and encloses us in a triangle with Trinidad, also in an area full of oil», points.

Both Garavini and Rodríguez Cedeño warn that it is necessary to reconstitute the legal teams of Venezuela for the following phases.

Story of a fraud

He Arbitration award in Paris is one of the darkest events in the diplomatic history of the country. Its origin goes back to the end of the 19th century when, faced with the incessant claims of Venezuela and the diplomatic support of the United States for the invasion of the Essequibo territory by the United Kingdom,, The Washington Treaty is signed on February 2, 1897, where unfair rules and contrary to international law are established to solve the controversy. Venezuela was an impoverished country, with political instability due to internal wars between warlords to gain power. In front was the great world power.

The United Kingdom denied the possibility of Venezuela defending itself. Then, the representation of the Republic corresponded to the United States. The Court that was to settle the case according to the Washington Treaty was made up of two English specialists, two Americans and one Russian, who had the last word.

According to the book, “The Venezuelanness of the Essequibo”by Oscar García Márquez, on March 16, 1898 Venezuela delivered its allegation to its representative in Washington in a solid file which included 674 documents taken from Dutch, Spanish, English, Venezuelan and diplomatic sources from various authors, as well as an Atlas containing 78 maps, plus 13 others.

The Tribunal met in Paris between June and September 1899, handing over the 150,000 kilometers to the United Kingdom. On October 3, 1899, the Venezuelan agent in the Court of Arbitration, the Venezuelan José María Rojas, explained what happened, according to the Venezuelan diplomat Marcos Falcón Briceño in his paper “Origins of the Claim of Guayana Esequiba.”

Rojas explains that the decision of the Russian arbitrator was to give all the territory to the United Kingdom and that, faced with the refusal of the US arbitrators, he proposed modifying the coastline so that the Orinoco Delta corresponded exclusively to Venezuela if they accepted the rest “to which they assented as a duty of conscience considering, that, in view of the seriousness of the case, it would have been worse to consent under protest to the dispossession of the Orinoco.”

A text by Fr. Hermann González Oropeza, with the title «Two Aspects of the Essequibo Claim», shows some correspondences that also show the compromise.

For example, a senior officialthe Colonial Office (British Colonial Office), Charles Alexander Harris, noted in a minute in his hand that the Award “has certainly not conducive to the principles of international arbitration.”

«If something was imposed on all of us in Paris, it is that one cannot at the moment get a Tribunal to act like a Court of Law. The affair was a farce », he added then.

It will be up to Venezuela, if it is maintained in the trial, to demonstrate that the decision was not in accordance with the law, but to particular interests of third states.

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