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December 07
12:05 2018
THE REPORTER: News Staff, - 

The buzz word (or acronym) has been and will for the next few months be the ICJ as Belizeans are asked to learn as much as they can about that highest Court in the world, the International Court of Justice, which presides over legal matters between disputing nations.

Last week Thursday, the team of journalists who visited that facility in the Hague also met with various experts in the field of international law. Two of those experts: Dr. Eric de Brabandere, who is the Director of the Grotius Centre for International Dispute Resolution and Dr. Giulia Pinzauti, a Former ICJ Law Clerk and an Assistant Professor at Leiden University at the Hague. They advised us on the principles of international law and what it is that the Court really looks at, such as a boundary treaty. In our case, the 1859 Treaty comes into sharp focus.

“Anything that can prove title to territory is what they look at first. Title is important, unless there is this prescriptive acquisition, which means that your presence overrides the title. But this is a theory that has not really been applied by the ICJ,” Brabandere said. “They look at who was actually occupying the territory and exercising sovereignty before independence and after independence. The only thing they are very careful with is every act taken after you have made the claim to sovereignty. So if Guatemala would say three years ago say oh, this is our territory and then suddenly starts sending military and say ‘we’re there, see, it’s our territory, that doesn’t count, or at least it’s looked upon with suspicion or with doubt,” Brabandere added.

Those facts the ICJ would consider, the law expert clarified would be pre and post-Independence for Guatemala and Belize.

Pinzauti, meanwhile, assured that having worked with the ICJ in the past, the Court strives for fair treatment towards the disputing parties, applying fair procedures throughout the hearing, and handing down fair decisions.

“The majority of (the judges) agree on something and I think that is something that we can trust. There might be some gaps in the reasoning, but I think you can trust their outcome,” she assured, while Brabandere added that the majority of the judges who votes behind a decision stands behind the final decision.

If Belizeans vote “YES” on April 10th, it would be the very first time that the ICJ would preside over a territorial claim whereby the two disputing countries take the matter before the Court by way of a Referendum.

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