ICJ orders Venezuela to refrain from action in border dispute with Guyana

Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday ordered Venezuela to refrain from taking any action that would alter the situation on the ground in the potentially oil-rich territory that is the subject of a border dispute with Guyana, which controls the area.

The court did not expressly forbid Venezuela from going ahead with a referendum on Sunday over its rights to the region around the Esequibo river, as Guyana has requested.

Irfaan Ali
Nicolas Maduro

But judges at the ICJ ruled that any move to alter the status quo should be stopped.

“The court observes that the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute is that Guyana administers and exercises control over that area,” presiding judge Joan Donoghue said.

“Venezuela must refrain from taking any action which would modify that situation,” she added.

Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali hailed the court’s ruling, while Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez said it was a victory for her country.

“As the court has made clear, Venezuela is prohibited from annexing or trespassing upon Guyanese territory or taking any other actions – regardless of the outcome of its referendum on December 3 – that would alter the status quo in which Guyana administers and controls the Esequibo region,” Ali said in a statement.

Last Sunday Venezuelans approved the referendum called by the government of President Nicolas Maduro to claim sovereignty over the mineral rich region, Caracas electoral authority announced.