23rd November 2023

The Bar Association of Guyana wishes to join the national concern regarding the proposed announcement by the Government of Venezuela that it will carry out a Consultative Referendum to ask the Venezuelan public to consider several questions related to the legal validity and binding effect of the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899. The questions raise issues about Guyana’s sovereignty over the territory between the Essequibo River and the internationally recognized western boundaries of Guyana; the purported creation of a new Venezuelan State encompassing the Essequibo region; as well as other legal and political matters.

These actions appear to be a precursor to the forced annexation of Guyana’s territory and have the effect of aggravating or extending the dispute that has been referred to the International Court of Justice. In which referral an approach by the Government of Guyana for provisional measures in the proceedings currently pending before that Court.

Venezuela’s actions (generally and those which are the subject of the request for provisional measures) are unjustifiable in international law. Whatever the motivations or intentions of the Venezuelan Government, they are repugnant to the spirit of goodwill and peace which ought to pervade amongst neighbours.

We share the concern of the Guyanese people that Venezuela’s actions are an unjust interference with our right to peace and self-determination and a regrettable fetter on our economic development aspirations. The Bar Council of the Bar Association of Guyana stands in full support of the Government of Guyana’s actions to defend Guyana’s territorial integrity in the referenced judicial proceedings and the wider diplomatic efforts.

The Executive Council of the Bar Association of Guyana intends to host a symposium with national legal experts on 4th December 2023 to discuss the legal issues before the International Court of Justice. This will address not only Guyana’s application for provisional measures, but also the wider principles in the principal proceedings.