Crime & Justice

ICJ asks Caracas to ‘refrain’ from complicating dispute with Guyana

The Hague, Dec. 1 (EFE).- The International Court of Justice urged Caracas on Friday to “refrain” from taking any action that would “modify” the situation in the territory west of the Essequibo River disputed with Guyana, and told both parties to refrain from taking any action that could make the issue “more difficult to resolve.”

Guyana had asked the Court to issue provisional measures on the ongoing dispute after Venezuela announced on Oct. 23 that it would hold a referendum asking its citizens whether the Essequibo territory should be “incorporated” into Venezuela as a new state and if it should “recognize” the ICJ’s jurisdiction to resolve the dispute, which currently Caracas does not.

Guyana argued that Venezuela wants to use the referendum to “obtain responses that would support” its “decision to abandon” the current proceedings before the Court and to “resort instead to unilateral measures” by “formally annexing and integrating into Venezuela all of the territory at issue.”

The Venezuelan government celebrated Friday that the International ICJ did not order the suspension of the referendum.

Executive Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez pointed out that Guyana had asked the Court to suspend the referendum, which will not be binding, but it did not and said that these requests were “unprecedented” and “unfounded.”

Guyana’s president, Irfaan Ali, said he “welcomes” the ruling and added that “justice, not force, should be the arbiter of international disputes.”

In Friday’s measures, the ICJ did not directly ask Caracas to cancel the referendum scheduled for Sunday, but urged the government of Nicolás Maduro to “refrain from taking any action which would modify the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute.”

It also agreed, in a unanimous decision by all the judges, that “both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.”

The Court recalled that its rulings “have binding effect and thus create international legal obligations for any party to whom the provisional measures are addressed” and said it believes that there is a “real and imminent risk” that Caracas will take further action after the plebiscite.

In the judgment, the ICJ considered that “in light of the strong tension that currently characterizes the relations between the Parties, the circumstances described above present a serious risk of Venezuela acquiring and exercising control and administration” of the territory of nearly 160,000 square kilometers west of the Essequibo River at issue in the case.

Caracas has challenge the ICJ jurisdiction over this case arguing that only the Geneva Agreement it signed with the United Kingdom in 1966 (shortly before Guyana’s independence), which provides the basis for a negotiated settlement, is valid. But the agreement stipulates that in case of a stalemate the Secretary-General of the United Nations could refer the dispute to the appropriate international organ, which is why António Guterres sent the case to the ICJ in 2018.

Venezuela has claimed the territory west of the Essequibo river, about 70 percent of Guyana’s territory, since at least the 17th century. First from the Dutch, later from the British and finally from the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. EFE


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