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Feb 19, 2019

2008 Special Agreement Between Belize and Guatemala ‘Invalid’

Ten years ago, on December eighth, 2008 the Foreign Ministers of Belize and Guatemala signed, at OAS headquarters, the Special Agreement between Guatemala and Belize to submit the territorial, insular and maritime claim of Guatemala to the International Court of Justice. Minister Wilfred Elrington signed on behalf of the country while the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Roger Haroldo Rodas Melgar, signed on behalf of our neighbor. During the signing ceremony at the headquarters of the Organization of American States, both Ministers of Foreign Affairs congratulated each other on the signing of the Special Agreement, as recommended by the OAS Secretary General, subject to the approval of the citizens of the two countries expressed in referendums. Article seven of the Special Agreement establishes that both Parties commit to making the arrangements provided for in their respective domestic systems for submitting to a referendum the decision to ask the International Court of Justice to settle the territorial differendum. But a trio of attorneys, namely Anthony Sylvestre, Richard ‘Dickie’ Bradley, and Kareem Musa is challenging the validity of the Special Agreement. According to the attorneys, government is required by law to have the Special Agreement ratified by the National Assembly and since that was not done, the Special Agreement is null and void.


Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Attorney

“It cannot be that the minister, the government and a few other individuals can look at a document and review it and say that ‘we speak on behalf of an entire and we are going to the take an entire to the International Court of Justice’ without first putting it to the people. And by putting it to the people I mean taking it the National Assembly for ratification. As you know the section of the constitution, section one and the schedule one sets out the borders of our country, Belize. Section sixty-eight of that very same constitution says that only the National Assembly has the power to alter the constitution and to make laws and so what the current government was doing in 2008 up to present is actually assigning the power of the legislature unto the I.C.J. when in fact it should first come to the House for us to be able to vote on that, to review that, to ventilate it properly and ensure that the Compromis has all of the terms that we can all agree on as a country before we take it to the I.C.J.  This is something that the Prime Minister will have to look at because we are relying here on cases coming out from the Brexit decision; in particular the Miller case and the UK withdraw case which actually sets out the importance in any democracy of the principle of separation of powers and what that means is that each entity, the legislature, the executive , and the judiciary have a role to play and we cannot by-pass the role that the legislature plays in such an important decision like this one, the biggest decision that us as Belizeans will have to make on whether or not we take our country to the International Court of Justice for a case which we still do not know what Guatemala is claiming.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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