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Mar 28, 2019

PM Barrow Introduces a New Legal Opinion by Former I.C.J. President

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow presented the latest legal opinion on the Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute.  It comes on the heels of another put forward recently by the Bar Association which commissioned preeminent international law professor Stephen Vasciannie to weigh in on the strengths and weaknesses of the claim should it go before the I.C.J. for resolution.  This morning, before an audience of high-level government officials, a summary of former I.C.J. President, Judge Stephen Schwebel’s opinion was introduced during Prime Minister Barrow’s press conference.  Judge Schwebel was one of four renowned legal minds who first offered a legal opinion on the claim back in 2001.  With only thirteen days left before the I.C.J. referendum vote, Prime Minister Barrow is pulling out all the stops in trying to convince the electorate why a ‘yes’ vote is the right decision to make. The retired judge answered questions put to him by the government. The answers are similar to the position laid out in the 2001 legal opinion.


Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I believe it is admitted by almost all of us that the seminal Lauterpacht, Schwebel, Rosenne, Orrego-Vicuña Opinion of 2001 does in effect describe Belize’s position as impregnable. The question has been asked, though, whether that opinion, unquestionably authoritative when it was written, is still as valid now, 18 years after, as it was then. And, those who are apprehensive say, the international law principles and circumstances on which the opinion was based may have changed, evolved possibly to Belize’s detriment. Well, G.O.B. on behalf of Belize has put just this question squarely to the venerable and most learned Judge Stephen Schwebel. Judge Schwebel, I remind you, was a longstanding judge of the ICJ, altogether from 1981 to 2000. During that time he was Vice-President of the Court from 1994 to 1997, and ended his tenure by serving as the Court’s President from 1997 to 2000. It is impossible, I believe, to find any living former judge of the ICJ with greater pedigree than Judge Schwebel. Judge Schwebel has now submitted his answer to the question we asked, and it is that opinion that we publicly disclose today.  First of all Judge Schwebel roundly and unambiguously declares his position that the Lauterpacht Opinion is as valid and dispositive today as it was in 2001. In other words, our case remains unassailable. And if anything, the consolidation over time of the international law and self-determination principles that originally informed the Opinion, have served only to put an even greater stamp of approval on it.”

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