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Mar 28, 2019

Judge Stephen Schwebel Weighs in on the Belize/Guatemala Claim

Dean Barrow

While it can be argued that Judge Schwebel is essentially rehashing what has been posited in the 2001 legal opinion, PM Barrow went on to say that it is Schwebel’s view that Belize would be granted temporary relief from the World Court should there be a yes vote in the upcoming referendum.  This means that Guatemala would be ordered to cease and desist its hostile actions in the Sarstoon River where it has been turning back Belizeans from freely traversing the river.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Judge Schwebel also refutes the argument of some No campaigners that the Special Agreement would allow the I.C.J. to draw boundaries different from the 1859 boundaries. It is those 1859 boundaries, Judge Schwebel asseverates, that will be binding on the Court. He assures as well that Belize did not give up any rights when it passed the Maritime Areas Act, and that the Act does not in any way hurt Belize’s case. And he is just as firm in saying that Guatemala’s behavior regarding the Sarstoon cannot legally prejudice our rights and ownership of the part of the Sarstoon River north of the Southern boundary line defined in the 1859 Treaty. He ends in clarion fashion: Belize has good title to all its territory including the islands and islets off shore, and the claim by the Republic of Guatemala is without merit and would be regarded as such by the International Court of Justice. Now all this is a most important and reassuring reaffirmation of the 2001 Legal Opinion. What is completely new, though, is Judge Schwebel’s additional certification of the fact that Belize would be entitled to obtain interim relief from the I.C.J. if we vote yes in the Referendum. Judge Schwebel says, and I quote, “…it would be open to Belize to apply to the Court for its issuance of provisional measures to direct Guatemala to cease and desist from its actions on the Sarstoon and respect the terms of the 1859 Treaty and Guatemala’s own acceptance of the Sarstoon boundary by word and deed for some 150 years….”


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