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Mar 5, 2019

A Closer Look at Professor Vasciannie’s Legal Opinion

Turning to the legal opinion provided by Professor Stephen Vasciannie, as commissioned by the Bar Association. The international law professor at the University of the West Indies has put forward an expert view on the Belize/Guatemala Dispute, identifying both the strengths and weaknesses of the case, should it go to the I.C.J. for arbitration.  The fifty-two-page document is being pored over by attorneys and academics alike. The opinion has also been reviewed by members of government, including Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala Alexis Rosado, who is the head of Belize’s Referendum Unit.  Both he and attorney Jose Alpuche, an executive of the Bar Association, shed light on concerns raised by Professor Vasciannie.

 

Alexis Rosado

Alexis Rosado, Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala

“Professor Vasciannie did a very careful analysis of all the arguments from Guatemala’s perspective and Belize’s perspective and also looking at what international law provides, including the case law that the International Court of Justice has behind them.  In summary, he reviews every possible argument that anybody could bring up and even looking at the weaknesses, possible weaknesses that one would say Belize may have and his conclusion is clearly, clearly that Belize has a very strong case and that under international law there is no way that we could possibly have our borders redrawn or that we could have our title to our land challenged in any way, not looking at all the facts, not looking at all the evidence and not looking at all the law.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“There was a particular point raised towards the conclusion of the legal opinion where he is saying that essentially both Belize and Guatemala, perhaps, need to go back and thoroughly review all the archival records in respect of this claim dating back to 1859.  That seems to be a serious point, an important one being raised by the professor.  What is your take on that given the volume of documents and paperwork and given the time that we have?”

 

Alexis Rosado

“He is entirely right and it is something that we have known for years, for decades, in fact, and we have done just that.  We have been studying this matter for years.  It’s not like the Guatemala claim just came upon us.  In fact, from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, the British had prepared to go the International Court of Justice.  Since then we’ve had so many other studies done, legal opinions conducted.  We have never stopped digging through the files, so any suggestions that this has never been done or that we are just about to start is neither here nor there.  The fact is that we have voluminous material from all the archives from every part of the world where you could find anything to do with Belize and Guatemala.  We have been doing that.”

 

Jose Alpuche

Jose Alpuche, Executive, Bar Association

“I think one of the things which me personally, I would like some clarification on from the persons who are running our case, he has said that we need to do a survey of the British and Guatemalan archives to ensure that all key documents are available to the lawyers as they prepare for litigation.  It says, in addition to strengthening the case for Belize this will also prevent the possibility of surprising the litigation, an ever-present risk when more than three hundred years of documentary evidence have to be assessed.  So that’s straight up case preparation.  You know, what have we been doing in terms of case preparation?  I think that’s a valid concern that Belizeans might want to think about.”

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