ICJ to rule on its jurisdiction to hear Guyana, Venezuela Arbitral Award Case on December 18

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The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hand down its judgment on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the 1899 Arbitral Award Case brought by Guyana against Venezuela on December 18.

“A public sitting of the Court will take place at 3p.m at the Peace Palace in The Hague, during which the President of the ICJ, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, will read out the Court’s decision,” the United Nations’ principal judicial organ announced in a statement on Thursday, December 10, 2020.

In its oral presentation before the ICJ on June 30, 2020, Guyana argued that the 1966 Geneva Agreement, in unambiguous terms, empowered the UN Secretary-General to determine an appropriate dispute resolution mechanism to enable a peaceful settlement.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in 2018, referred the border controversy, which stemmed from Venezuela’s contention that the 1899 Arbitral Award was null and void, to the ICJ, but the Spanish speaking country has repeatedly indicated that the world court has no jurisdiction to deliberate on the matter.


But Guyana, through a battery of international lawyers argued before President Yusuf that Venezuela’s interpretation of the Geneva Agreement is not only illogical and erroneous, but it is in stark contrast to the interpretation the country had when it signed the very agreement in February, 1966.

Guyana’s Co-Agent Sir Shridath Ramphal had pointed out that the UN Secretary-General resorted to the Court after the Mixed Commission (1966-1970), a 12-year moratorium (1970-1982), a seven-year process of consultations on a means of settlement (1983-1990), and the Good Offices Process (1990-2017) failed to resolve the controversy.

Venezuela, after more than 60 years of the issuance of the 1899 Arbitral Award, contended that it was null and void. The 1899 Arbitral Award legally established the location of the land boundary between then British Guiana and Venezuela. Guyana has long maintained that the award was a full, perfect and final settlement and therefore remains valid to this day.

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