ICJ begins deliberation in Guyana-Venezuela border dispute

Felicity Salina, International Law Officer

The UN’s primary judicial organ, the International Court of Justice, concluded its public hearings on the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 between Guyana and Venezuela on Tuesday, 30 June 2020. The hearings, which had been originally slated to take place in late March, addressed questions and submissions by the parties on the Court’s jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute.

The dispute arises from an Application filed by Guyana back in March 2018, requesting that the Court “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”. The former British colony claims that Venezuela refuses to recognize the Award, which sets out certain boundary limitations between both States and confers sovereignty on Guyana over a region west of the Essequibo River.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hearings were conducted via video-link, with only some Members of the Court physically present in the Great Hall of Justice. The delegation of Guyana submitted that the Court has jurisdiction to hear claims by Guyana, and that the claims are admissible. Guyana thus pleaded that the case proceed to the merits phase. Venezuela did not participate in the hearings.