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May 10, 2019

What’s the Fate of Pending Litigation Post I.C.J. Referendum?

Belizeans have voted decisively to proceed to the International Court of Justice in an effort to bring an end to the longstanding territorial dispute with Guatemala.  On Wednesday, thousands of voters participated in the I.C.J. referendum, despite pending litigation before the local courts.  As it turned out, a YES vote was the majority during the divisive exercise; however, many are left to wonder what happens next in respect of the cases that have been lodged in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, respectively.  The People’s United Party is challenging the legitimacy of the Special Agreement between Belize and Guatemala which was signed in 2008.  They maintain that the Compromis, as it is otherwise known, is unconstitutional.  A case management session is set for the end of June in the Court of Appeal.  But with a hand of friendship now being extended to the Opposition, Prime Minister Barrow says that continuing with the matter won’t bode well for a joint approach going forward.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Belize will proceed and we need to proceed in unity.  That wouldn’t exactly mark a unified beginning, would it, if the opposition as it had indicated before the vote decides to proceed with challenging the referendum.  I don’t want to get too much into it, Lisa has not yet had a chance to advise me.  But I’ll take a flying leap and hazard a guess that there really is no way to stop our proceeding under what in fact is an international agreement between Belize and Guatemala.  The conditions precedent for which in terms of implementation have now been satisfied by both countries.  I would want to think that in any practical sense, any practical construction of these matters, it would have to be that that agreement on the international plain and the actions taken on the international plain will trump domestic law.  But as I said, ultimately we are going to be advised by Lisa and by our Attorney General and by, of course, the international lawyers who are already being paid, I tell you, and who therefore will be only too pleased, I imagine, to counsel us with respect to any local challenge that might be pursued and how that would affect our going forward as the people of this country have now mandated that we do.”

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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