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Apr 22, 2015

Mayans Win Landmark Land Rights Case

The Caribbean Court of Justice, the final appellate jurisdiction for Belize, has affirmed Maya customary land rights in a milestone judgment handed down earlier today in Belize City.  In delivering the conclusion, CCJ President Dennis Byron, read, “The court accepts the undertaking of the appellants to adopt fully the measures to identify and protect the rights of the appellants arising from Maya customary tenure in conformity with the constitutional protection of property and non-discrimination in Sections Three, Three D, Sixteen and Seventeen of the Belize Constitution.” For the indigenous community, the ruling is a vindication, having fought with government in a protracted legal battle over their use of land for almost twenty years.  As such, the CCJ upholds the decision of the Court of Appeal which gives rise to ownership of land communally or through legal title.  While the outcome was expected, following a case management session with both parties on Monday, the better part of today was spent arguing whether damages should be awarded to the appellants.  That decision has been reserved.  The order of the CCJ, however, also entails the protection of Maya land rights by the Government of Belize.

 

Antoinette Moore

Antoinette Moore, Attorney for MLA

“Today, in the Caribbean Court of Justice which is the highest court for the country of Belize, it is a regional court and so it is for other Caribbean countries as well.  Our highest court came here to hear your case, to hear your concerns, to hear what you have been struggling over for these many years.  And we have to say congratulations to the Government of Belize also and to all of the people of Belize because what has happened today is that an order was read by the president of the court, the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice entering an order, a consent order, so it’s something agreed upon by the government and by your leadership, on your behalf, a consent order that says this court, meaning the Caribbean Court of Justice, affirms the Court of Appeal of Belize in so far as it holds that Maya customary land tenure exists in the Maya villages in the Toledo District and gives rise to collective and individual property rights within the meaning of the Belize Constitution.  That is what you have been struggling for and that certainly… That has gone for the last ten years through the courts, through the regional human rights bodies, through the courts of Belize and until now it reached the last, the highest, that mountaintop in terms of the courts, the highest court, there is no other court and they ordered on consent of the parties, the government agreed consenting to the order along with your communities that your land rights are affirmed and are recognized.  The order also says that the government will protect your rights and that will mean at some point that there will be titles, that there will be a law, perhaps it will be called the Maya Land Act, I don’t know, but there will be a law that will be passed by the National Assembly to protect your rights, to ensure that this, to ensure that this order is implemented.”

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5 Responses for “Mayans Win Landmark Land Rights Case”

  1. Celi says:

    This is truly a victory!

  2. aldo says:

    very sad day n most Belizeans cheering on. just as them me n my parents were born in belize. where is my piece of land. belize belongs to all Belizeans equally. I want as much land as they have with the rights to go along.

  3. CEO says:

    A very good and just ruling!

    We should all respect to the original people’s way of life.

  4. Belizean says:

    So all of us NON-MAYA are not original people? What about all the Belizeans that have been trying for 70 years to get land???? And now this group gets thousands of acres free?? That is absolute baloney.

  5. Brithny says:

    It is good that the case was won but can someone please tell me what exactly is this about? What exactly was the problem? I’m doing a paper on this that’s why am inquisitive. Please assist me asap!

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