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Mar 5, 2019

Opposition Leader on Legal Opinions

There are two recent legal opinions relating to the Guatemalan territorial dispute; one by international expert Stephen Vascannie, which has just been made public and the other is by attorneys Kareem Musa, Anthony Sylvester and Dickie Bradley, which looks at the Special Agreement of December eighth, 2008. The latter was released two weeks ago and questions the legality of the Special Agreement. The attorneys researched the topic extensively and concluded that the Compromis may not be valid because the House of Representatives did not authorize Foreign Minister Elrington to sign it. By extension it cannot be relied upon for the holding of the April tenth referendum on taking the claim to the International Court of Justice.  Well, the wheels are in motion and the courts will be asked to determine the validity of the agreement as well as the legality of the proposed referendum. Aside from the original three attorneys, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay and Magali Marin Young are joining the team.  Today, the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño wrote to Prime Minister Dean Barrow as a first step. He states that he has been advised that “there is serious doubt whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs had the power to legally bind Belize to the Special Agreement and Protocol without prior legislative approval. Additionally, a review of the Referendum Act reveals that it does not provide for the holding of a binding referendum as required by Article Seven of the Special Agreement.” Briceño says that the P.U.P. is seriously concerned about its legality and the proposed referendum and intends to file a claim in the Supreme Court today seeking legal certainty and clarity and orders to restrain the holding of the referendum until the court has had the opportunity to make a determination. These issues, he points out, have serious domestic and international consequences for Belize. Briceño also notes that the PM recently announced that government was seeking the legal advice of a constitutional law expert consequent on the opinion of the three attorneys. Briceño is requesting that if the opinion has been received, it is in the national interest to make it public. He also urges that in light of the very weighty constitutional issues surrounding this process and the doubt which attends its validity, the holding of the referendum should be postponed so that the Supreme Court claim can be heard and a decision delivered.

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