By Misión Verdad — Nov 3, 2023
The dispute over the Essequibo territory is one of the oldest disputes on the South American continent. The Venezuelan state has called a popular consultation for citizens to reinforce their inalienable rights over that region, given the recent interference of the United States in the case.
In 2018, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that Guyana formally presented a lawsuit against Venezuela in which, as a first point, it asks to rule that: “The 1899 Award is valid and binding for Guyana and Venezuela, and the border established by that Award and the Agreement of 1905 is valid and binding” also for both parties.
In this way, the neighboring country [Guyana] attempts to gain legitimacy in this controversy by bringing up a dubious arbitration against Venezuela that was the consequence of “procedural fraud.” This was confirmed by statements from the same arbitrators years later—two of them English, two more Americans and one Russian, a friend of the British Crown—which led to the United Kingdom agreeing to reach an accord in Geneva that opened a long period for both States to try to find a mutually negotiated solution.
Venezuela does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ and made that public in 2021, among the provisions of the 1966 Geneva Agreement. The argument is that it has never given its consent, and even less so regarding Guyana’s unilateral demand, which “injures the meaning, purpose and reason” of the treaty signed in 1966.
#COMUNICADO | Hoy atendimos por cortesía a una solicitud de la Corte Internacional de Justicia, para conversar sobre la controversia territorial sobre la Guayana Esequiba, ratificamos la plena vigencia del Acuerdo de Ginebra como única vía para un acuerdo práctico y satisfactorio pic.twitter.com/WUyDtwcqYN
— Jorge Arreaza M (@jaarreaza) February 26, 2021
Furthermore, neither Guyana nor Venezuela have ratified the 1948 Pact of Bogotá, an international instrument that has allowed Latin America to resolve a large number of controversies that have arisen between two States on the American continent before an international judge. Nor have they recognized the jurisdiction of the ICJ through the declaration provided for in Article 36, paragraph 2 of its statute, which dictates that:
“The States parties to this Statute may declare at any time that they recognize as obligatory ipso facto and without special agreement, with respect to any other State that accepts the same obligation, the jurisdiction of the Court in all legal controversies that concern:
a. The interpretation of a treaty.
b. Any question of international law.
c. The existence of any fact that, if established, would constitute a violation of an international obligation.
d. The nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of an international obligation.”
The ICJ judges
Regarding the ICJ judges, the situation is also biased against Venezuela: Joan E. Donoghue, president of the main judicial body of the UN, was principal deputy legal advisor to the United States Department of State between January and June 2009. She advised the then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama on all aspects of international law, particularly on issues of development, interpretation and application of international humanitarian law.
The military campaigns of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), led by the United States, were guided by Donoghue’s advice on these legal matters.
As a senior career lawyer, she has intervened on issues such as the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo before the ICJ. She is also involved in the law of the sea, Antarctica, the Arctic, fishing and the environment; in investor-state arbitration before the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
She was head of delegation in bilateral claims negotiations with Iraq and assisted in the implementation of President Obama’s executive orders on Guantánamo, which involved detention and interrogation under illegal methods of citizens of several countries.
She was also a representative to the United States-European Union Legal Dialogue and a representative to the Committee of Legal Advisors of the Council of Europe.
Another judge is the French Ronny Abraham, whose legacy of questionable judiciary decisions in his country’s chancellery dates back to the government of Jacques Chirac. Between 1998 and 2004 he was in charge of issues such as the legality of the use of force and legal consequences of the construction of the wall in the Palestinian territory occupied by the State of Israel, in which he was head of delegation.
Moroccan judge Mohamed Bennouna was his country’s ambassador to the UN in 2002 and has experience in territorial dispossession. He stood out for his rejection of a proposal sent by the then Secretary General of the multilateral organization, Kofi Annan, to the Security Council, which consisted of dividing the territory of Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Republic) between Rabat and the Polisario Front to advance the negotiations, in an effort to put an end to the last pending decolonization process in Africa. Bennouna’s statement on the matter concluded:
“No. Neither today, nor tomorrow nor in a hundred years will we accept that option.”
Another judge, Nawaf Salam, is part of the Lebanese political establishment, and was on the verge of being nominated as prime minister of Lebanon. He is recognized as a key player in creating “transnational grassroots support” on the Lebanese scene and he is diametrically opposed to the resistance movement Hezbollah and its popular influence in local politics.
Back to 1899?
Can we expect a judge to be a pristine and completely unbiased being, without a past that reflects suspicions about his real impartiality? The most realistic answer is no. However, in the case of the ICJ, whose jurisdiction in the Essequibo dispute is not even recognized by Venezuela—in accordance with what was established in 1966—there is the obvious hand of the United States and its transnational ExxonMobil.
In 2016, which was 50 years after the signing of the Geneva Agreement, the company began to exert pressure to revive the conflict in order to exploit deposits in continental waters—in Venezuelan sovereign waters—off the Essequibo region. Guyana signed an important contract with Esso, a subsidiary of the transnational, under the oil concessions model.
The fact that the President of the Court has maintained such a close relationship with a Democratic party government is no less revealing than the fact that Rex Tillerson, former head of North American diplomacy appointed by former President Donald Trump, was executive director of ExxonMobil between 2006 and 2016.
The outlook for the situation does not look good considering the complex web of relationships between the relevant judges and the networks of United States and European Union transnational power. The Arbitration Award of 1899 is already an example of how territorial dispossession can be orchestrated under the guise of dubious legal mechanisms by colonial entities.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
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