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EDITORIAL – October 26th. 2018

EDITORIAL – October 26th. 2018
October 26
05:59 2018

Last week six of our Belizean journalists were in Mexico City. They had gone there to apply for visas to travel to Europe, to visit the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

The visit, with expenses paid, is being sponsored by the United States Foreign Office. The Foreign Office is of the view that if Belizeans know more about the ICJ and how it works, they will be in a better position to make up their minds about the referendum, which is scheduled to take place in April next year.

In this referendum the voters of Belize will decide whether Belize goes to the ICJ to settle the centuries-old dispute with Guatemala.

On April 15 this year the voters of Guatemala participated in a similar referendum. They decided by a large majority to take the Guatemalan claim against Belize to the ICJ, and to abide by whatever decision the Court hands down.
It was a great piece of good fortune that while in Mexico City our Belizean journalists had an opportunity to interview the Hon. Justice Carlos Bernal, a former Judge of the ICJ, to get his opinion on the Belize-Guatemalan claim.
In a frank and open exchange Justice Bernal said it was his view that Belize should go to the ICJ to settle the claim.
He said that Belize has a “strong” case. Professor Bernal also said that in his opinion “Guatemala has “little” claim against Belize.

“I don’t think there is a legal right of Guatemala,” he said. Professor Bernal is not the only eminent jurist to express this view. Judge Stephen Schwebel, a pre-eminent American expert and former Chairman of the ICJ in his Lauterpacht Report (November 2001), along with three associates went further and declared that international law does not support the Guatemalan claim.

“We are of the opinion that the facts on the ground of British and Belize possession of the territory in question for virtually the last two hundred years, coupled with the absence of any evidence of Guatemalan activity in the disputed area – have by a process of historical consolidation, secured title…to Belize.”
“This is independent of the existence of the 1859 and 1931 agreements.”
Those who are opposed to Belize defending her title claim before the world court often ask the question: What if we win and Guatemala refuses to accept?

Even if Guatemala refuses to accept, a win at the International Court of Justice will be a huge accomplishment for Belize. We would now have a ruling from the highest court in the world that this land- all of it – belongs to the people of Belize.

Guatemala will no longer be able to mount a legal claim against Belize, as she now does, because that claim will have been settled for now and eternity.

Moreover, even if the Jimmy Morales Government does not accept the authority of the ICJ, and even if the government that follows Morales does not accept, the time will surely come when the government and people of Guatemala will accept the ruling of the court – even if it takes another 50 years to come about!

By referendum the population of Guatemala voted overwhelmingly to accept the court’s ruling. They agreed to arbitration! That referendum vote overrides the Guatemalan constitution and the Guatemalan Congress.

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