ICJ: International Court of Justice

Topic A: The Legal Status of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) has been a contested area of land since its Spanish occupation, and Morocco has had control of the land of Western Sahara since 1976. Morocco’s invasion of what it called its “Southern Territories” has resulted in lasting conflict with the Polisario Front, which fought for an independent SADR. The recognition of the SADR government by the Organization for African Unity (which would later become the African Union) led to Morocco’s withdrawal from the organization. Thirty years later, Morocco has now successfully rejoined the AU without recognizing the SADR government. The SADR was recognized initially by 84 states, but 39 of these states eventually withdrew their recognition of the SADR. However, their withdrawal is considered by some to be in violation of international law. The General Assembly has called for an advisory opinion on the legal status of the SADR to direct the international community’s diplomacy in the region.

Topic B: Guyana v. Venezuela

This case is a territorial dispute between the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The disputed region, referred to as the Essequibo, has been a controversial topic for both states since before they achieved independence. There have been a multitude of negotiation attempts through arbitration, various treaties, and the UN Good Offices. Guyana is of the opinion that the disputed territory was settled in the 1899 Arbitral Award, and deemed final by the Treaty of Washington. All parties accepted the outcome of the tribunal until 1962, when Venezuela renewed its claim on an argument that the award was “null and void.” According to Guyana, the Geneva Agreement was an attempt to settle the controversy regarding the validity of the 1899 award, not to settle a (nonexistent) territorial dispute. After 27 years with the UN Good Offices Process, the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy was finally referred to the ICJ on 30 January 2018 by the UN Secretary-General. It is currently a pending case in the ICJ, with Guyana having submitted an application instituting proceedings on 29 March 2018.

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