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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has agreed to hold public hearings in the case between Guyana and Venezuela on November 14, 2023.
In a statement published on Friday, the court announced that the hearings will specifically address Guyana’s request for a court-issued order to block the questions in Venezuela’s referendum ahead of its December 3 date.
The public hearings will be held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, which is the seat of the court.
Guyana is scheduled to present its oral argument from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM, while Venezuela’s arguments are scheduled for 3:00 PM- 4:30 PM.
On October 30, 2023, Guyana issued a Request for Provisional Measures to the ICJ, which sought a court order preventing Venezuela from taking any action to seize, acquire, encroach upon, or assert sovereignty over the Essequibo Region or any other part of Guyana’s national territory, pending the final decision of the court in deciding the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award and the final and binding nature of the boundary.
Guyana’s request states that “on October 23, 2023, Venezuela, through its National Electoral Council, published a list of five questions that it plans to put before the Venezuelan people in a… ‘Consultative Referendum’ on 3rd December, 2023.”
The referendum seeks to obtain support for its decision to bow out of the ongoing judicial court proceedings and instead formally annex and integrate the Essequibo Region into Venezuela.
Several international organisations have come forward to condemn the actions of Venezuela and ratify support of Guyana’s territorial integrity.
The Caribbean Community, as well as the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and Organisation of American States, and the international community have joined Guyana in its resolve that the controversy over the validity of the Arbitral Award and the land boundary must be resolved by the ICJ to ensure a just, peaceful, binding and permanent solution to the matter, under international law.
Guyana’s application to the ICJ in 2018 was a significant step in addressing the longstanding border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela.
The application sought to have the ICJ confirm the legal validity and binding effect of the 1899 Arbitral Award regarding the boundary between the then British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela.
It also attested that the 1899 award was a “full, perfect, and final settlement” of all questions related to determining the boundary lines between the colony of British Guiana and Venezuela.
The controversy is rooted in historical conflicts and has been a subject of contention for many years. The ICJ’s involvement signifies an attempt to resolve the matter through international legal means.