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The International Court of Justice issued an important order on 1 December 2023, aimed at preserving the longstanding control and administration of the Essequibo Region by Guyana.
The Court has directed Venezuela not to challenge, disrupt or interfere with Guyana’s control over the area until the Court has issued its final judgment on which state enjoys sovereignty over that territory.
The Court has unanimously ordered that Venezuela should refrain from taking any action that would modify the current situation in the disputed territory, where Guyana administers and exercises control over that area.
The Court’s order has come in response to Guyana’s request for provisional measures, which was prompted by Venezuela’s recent announcement of a national referendum scheduled for Sunday, December 3rd. The referendum asks the people of Venezuela to approve the annexation of the Essequibo Region and its incorporation into the Venezuelan state.
The Court’s Order prohibits Venezuela from taking such a measure, or any other measure that would change the status quo in the territory, regardless of the outcome of the Venezuelan referendum on Sunday. This reinforces the fundamental principle of international law, which is that every state has the duty to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of others.
The Order makes clear that holding a national referendum does not exempt a state from its obligation to comply with this duty. It is important that Venezuela upholds the ICJ’s Order of 1 December 2023. In a media statement Friday, CARICOM said it expects Venezuela to comply with international law in all respects, including the Charter of the United Nations, and calls for it to take no actions that would violate them.
The Venezuela-Guyana controversy is properly before the ICJ, and CARICOM demands that Venezuela pursue its claims within the law and the legal process. CARICOM also demands that the Caribbean should be respected as a Zone of Peace, and nothing should be done to disrupt the tranquility of the region, which is essential to the economic prosperity and social well-being of all countries of CARICOM and Latin America.