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Editorial – February 1st.

Editorial – February 1st.
February 01
17:01 2019

By Mr. Harry Lawrence

The men and women of Belize and students of high school age who want to get a good understanding of the Guatemalan claim and why the International Court of Justice is sure to reject it, must do more than listen to what people are telling them on radio and T.V.

They must do some private reading besides, to find out exactly what the Guatemalans are claiming, and why this claim is so clearly in contravention of international law. This means that Belizeans must have some knowledge about what the law says about treaties and land claims.

Guatemala is saying that she does not recognize Belize’s borders. She is saying that the treaty which created these borders, the Treaty of 1859, is no longer valid. Therefore the borders which the treaty established are no longer valid.

Because of that, in Guatemalan eyes, the Belize borders are not valid.

In order for Guatemala to get any land out of her claim, she first has to show that Belize’s borders in the west and in the south no longer exist.

This is an old myth started by President Jorge Ubico, the man who repudiated the Treaty of 1859. Because Ubico was a dictator, the Guatemalan Congress and the Guatemalan Constitutional Court went along with this line of reasoning.

But it is not true that Guatemala can remove Belize’s established borders by simply repudiating the 1859 treaty. If this were true, every tin pan dictator in the world would be empowered to move against its weaker neighbour and crush it by simply repudiating its border treaty with that neighbour.

The Geneva Convention which came into being in 1945, after the world had gone through a cataclysmic experience in World War II with Hitler, states clearly that a country cannot use its laws to change the borders of a neighbouring state.

Even if the treaty which establishes a border is repudiated, the border established by that treaty remains firmly in place.

Ubico may be forgiven for thinking that he could do away with Belize’s borders by repudiating the 1859 Treaty. He ruled Guatemala at the time of Hitler and Mussolini, and he admired both of these dictators.

But after the world catastrophe of World War ll (1939 to 1945) a new World Order was established through the United Nations. The Geneva Convention and the International Court of Justice, which were the first fruits of this new world order, were established immediately after the war in 1945.

The Guatemalan border claim is fatally flawed. It is so badly flawed that the ICJ cannot legally decide in its favour. If the border claim collapses, the whole Guatemala claim collapses also, because there is no way for Guatemalan to make a land claim against Belize if the Belize borders are firmly in place.

The ICJ does not have the option to decide what piece or pieces of land belong to Guatemala. All it can do is decide whether the Belize borders are legitimate, or not.

If the borders are not legitimate, Guatemala wins! If the borders are legitimate, Belize wins and keeps all of her territory, all her islands and all of her territorial sea.

It’s as simple as that!

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