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EDITORIAL, September 20th. 2018

EDITORIAL, September 20th. 2018
September 20
10:12 2018

All of Belize’s border problems stem from the one act by President Jorge Ubico who wanted to undo the border treaty which the Government of Guatemala signed with Britain in 1859.

Ubico thought that by renouncing the treaty he could undo the border markings which had been agreed upon.

He did all that a Guatemalan dictator was able to do. He renounced the treaty. He leaned on the Constitutional Court to declare that Guatemala is no longer bound by the 1859 treaty. He also had the Guatemalan Congress declare that Belize was now the 21st. district of the Republic of Guatemala.

But none of these actions achieved the result that Ubico wanted: to wipe outthe western boundary with Belize so that he could claim and annex all of Belize and turn it into a province of Guatemala.

It is true that the Hon. Philip Goldson was opposed to taking Belize’s case to the International Court of Justice. It is also true that the Rt. Hon. George Price was opposed as well.

They had good reason to be!

When Guatemala signed onto the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties in May 1969 she made it clear that she would not give up her claim to Belize.

In a written reservation Guatemala declared: “Guatemala cannot accept any provision of the Convention which would prejudice its rights and its claim to the territory of Belize.” Going to the ICJ would be a futile exercise if Guatemala was not going to accept the Court’s ruling on Belize!

But on April 15, 2018 there was a seismic change in the Guatemalan position. In a popular referendum the people of Guatemala decided to accept and abide by the ruling of the International Court of Justice with regard to the Belize territorial dispute.

This is something that neither Mr. Goldson nor Mr. Price could have anticipated. This was a revolutionary development indeed, because the ICJ had already determined that international boundaries, once established, have “a life of their own,” independent of the treaty that created them.

A country cannot use the authority of its national law to upset a boundary which has been established by international law.

What President Jorge Ubico did in Guatemala, pushing his expansionist claim to Belize was high-handed and completely illegal in the eyes of the international court.

The benchmark case of Chad vs Libya (1994) gives the clearest indication of where the court will stand on the question of international borders established by treaty.

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