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Jan 17, 2013

What can Belize lose by going to the ICJ to settle Belize/Guatemala dispute?

Wilfred Elrington

On Wednesday the Referendum Unit created to lead a strategic awareness campaign on the pros, cons and risks of going to the ICJ hosted a media mixer. Speaking to a wide cross-section of mainstream and independent media personnel were experts and officials in the dispute negotiations and referendum process including Ambassadors Stuart Leslie and James Murphy and government’s Archives Director Doctor Herman Byrd. But the man in the line of fire was foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington. The Foreign minister said the government is fully on board and supports going to the ICJ. He was also asked the question which has been on everybody’s mind since the ICJ option was dropped into our laps. If we go to the ICJ to settle the longtime Belize/Guatemala dispute, what can we lose? What is the worst case scenario? Here’s the Minister’s answer to that very pressing query.


Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“I believe personally that the absolute worst that can go; that can happen to my mind is that they may have some determination in relation to our maritime waters. They may be able to do something in relation to that because of the narrowness of the area and the need for Guatemala to have an exit of that and I think that that is the most.”


For context, we note that in November of twenty twelve the ICJ handed down a decision in a claim laid by Nicaragua against Colombia in regards to some long disputed islets. The Court ruled that Nicaragua’s claim was not valid and the islets were Colombian territory. But, the Court also determined and ruled to extend Nicaragua’s maritime area. That finding by the Court is binding and final.

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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17 Responses for “What can Belize lose by going to the ICJ to settle Belize/Guatemala dispute?”

  1. Storm says:

    Sedi isn’t being honest. He knows that Guatemala claims the southern HALF of Belize as their territory. [They actually claimed all of the Jewel, but my understanding is that the claim to the northern half is pretty much an afterthought. Maybe even the Guats don't want the City!]

    So what we have to lose, what is before the court, is about half of our country. And what do the Guats have to lose?

    If we lose with the ICJ, we’ve lost forever, it’s final. If the Guats lose, we’re right back to exactly the same situation we’re in today — the Guats threatening us, and slowly, silently absorbing us because we leave our border wide open. And if some day they have to divert attention from a domestic crisis, they might just march in and conquer us. Like I’ve said before, we can’t win at the ICJ.

  2. no news says:

    “I believe personally that the absolute worst” is GOB is rudderless, setting its sails in the Sea of Clueless.

    Calling all government corruption officers, get out with all the money you can.
    the HMS Joke is sinking. Women and children, get out of the way.

  3. NO TOICJ says:

    Belize stands to lose EVERYTHING; we have nothing to gain in going to the ICJ…. Lets VOTE NO! _ a resounding NO!

  4. blackberry says:

    Guatemalans’ radio is already claiming that the ICJ will award them southern keys. If this prove to be true Guatemala will be able to claim twelve miles of sea which will leave lest than five miles of sea in southern Belize. This will also give Guatemalan oil companies the right to drill in these waters which we are so passionate about. Any oil spill in that area will affect the entire reef system of Belize

  5. Initiate says:

    Storm, what you stated is thankfully just your opinion.

    Pressing harder to think forward here:

    There is a dispute – no one disputes that. And in life, you always have results and the best results with mediation, a mediator, in this case the ICJ, so we need the ICJ, but the ICJ needs to make themselves more known.

    Who is the ICJ? is one of my questions.

    Next point is: The persons ‘in charge, in power, in authority over this case, the people leading it, need to minimize the risk and surprise this decision brings.

    This is too big of an issue to have the ‘unknowns’ so huge. Nobody feels comfortable voting for an ICJ that can descend on us like a lightening bolt. We just stay away from lightning, period. I feel at this point, the majority will simply not show up to vote yet.

    Dispel more of the unknowns and then draw the final line. Dispel the unknowns until you have the majority of people ready to make a decision. And I feel, only the ICJ can dispel the unknowns by making themselves known.

    the ICJ should make proposals of what they are thinking and then make counter proposals after hearing feedback from both countries. Continue to make counter proposals until you have the majority of the people ready to make a decision.

    Make the loses and expectations of both countries

    The resolution of this dispute is possible!!!
    with enough people remaining positive on both sides.

  6. Belizean Boy says:

    STORM….what you stated is basically the bottom line. What does Belize have to lose or gain vs. what does Guatemala has to lose or gain? Belize stands to lose everything while Guatemala really won’t lose anything, but rather have everything to gain. Belize needs better educated public servants. I say education not merely from books, although that is where it starts, but having a global view of issues. Be able to read between the lines and extrapolate.

    The evidence for both cases should also be made public so that citizens can understand the gravity of the situation. Every Belizean knows Guatemala lays claim to Belize, but myself, do not know the details of where this claim originated and what evidence they have that makes them believe in this claim. Should Guatemala win they will gain direct access to the sea and that is a major factor that directly impacts the economy of any country. They have much to gain. If they lose, they are simply back to square one and will eventually resort to other means, but the decision will have bought us some time. If Belize loses then we all better learn to speak Spanish and prepare to be subjugated. This is a very risky move on our part since we have everythign to lose and Guatemala seeks to only to benefit.

  7. Gone fishing says:

    Belize’s legal position is strong.
    Getting this whole matter resolved by the ICJ would be good.

    The real question is whether/when GOB will fumble the ball again.
    The next question is how much money they will make out of fumbling.

    GOB can’t make white stripes happen on the highway, much less maintain them.
    How many deadly accidents would that prevent?
    Figuring things out, are not a strong suite with GOB.

    how is that Hezbollah passport investigation going?
    Or the drunk Faber trial, when is that?
    Free walks and can’t get out of a wet paper bag.

    GOB, use your natural law argument with ICJ, that legal theory will go over big.

  8. cayobway says:

    With this numnuts running the show we will soon have to change our nationality, I wonder if our passport will read nationalized guatemalan or guatelizean, or maybe to please thie dumb@$$ fro selling us out the new government will call this part of guat province belitemala.

  9. Bear says:

    @Initiate, the ICJ is a court, not a negotiator. It cannot give us an idea “what it is thinking” until the case is submitted to it and it makes a decision, — a final unappealble decision determining our future, made by foreigners. So there is no way to test the water to see if we will win — and if there were, would Guatemala then participate?

    I’m with those who feel the ideas is borderline suicidal/insane, and I have no confidence that the GOB legal team [read, Barrow's ex-wife and other family] can present a winning case, even if one exists. Their record of success in important litigation is unimpressive.

  10. ceo says:

    I do not see how going to the ICJ will benefit Belize, some learned folks think it will but I am not sure. I say so because if Guatemala really wanted a solution to the problem they can drop their claim anytime.

    They are not doing anything in good faith and the ICJ guys just want this matter to go away so they will dice up or country and give them piece in an effort to aquash this matter for good.

  11. Initiate says:

    I’m thinking of your comment Bear. I still feel it is a bit tainted, but I’m trying to get the best out of it

    If the ICJ is so up out and far away, who is yet more so out of this world that would then enforce the decision of ICJ?

    So the debacle we have with Guatemala is not worth going to ICJ with?

    Better to just continue to exist as we do now?

    ICJ can bring no improvement to the situation?

    Storm ?

    Anybody else is going to allow this argument to be lost by negective loosers ?
    (This question not directed at above comments but at the people that could possibly share the most positive picture about ICJ)

  12. Czl says:

    I will attempt to answer some of the points and concerns that were expressed on this site. First of all I want to commend Channel 5 for providing this space for Belizeans to express themselves,

    1) Yes the Guatemala strategic claim for the Southern Part of Belize and its water is true. They have more to win than the Belize Period. That is a fact. Belize lose whether is goes to the ICJ or not ( will explain why)
    2) We have to be careful and think this thoroughly. If you are listening to Guatemala news and they say all this things that they will win…etc and makes their case believable is probably to convince their people that it is the right thing to do (after all they don’t have anything to lose but time and money) and also to have a psychological war fair on the Belizean. This is to prevent Belize from going or to weaken Belize.
    3) According to Belize’s delegation on this matter Belize has a strong case on this. I have read and have spoken to some of them. We have a government and governed by rule of law, one of their president acknowledge Belize as an independent country but later ousted, we are part of the UN and other regional organizations, World recognizes Belize as a country, Belize was never occupied by them..etc the list goes on and on. I am sure they have their list as well
    4) So if Belize’s does not go to the ICJ we also lose. Belize continues to have a disputed border were by the Guatemalan government will continue to not do anything to stop the incursion because they believe its theirs, Belize will not able to patrol the border because of lack of resources, their will continue to have fatalities that may lead to a possible conflict with the neighbor which both don’t want, but its people are pushing them towards that. Also, this disputed territory is another deterrence for investors to come to Belize. Is Belize willing to live like the for the rest of its life or does Belize wants to solve this once in for all. Britain will not come to the rescue Belize is on its own. We don’t have the resource and man power to defend itself for an invasion who will come to its aid.
    5) So now, Belizean will have to just trust those people infront of all this matter. I believe that they are the most capable people for this. Hon Sedi is capable and trustworthy, after I am very positive it is not on his best interest for Belize to lose. Why would you think he want Belize to lose? Do you think he will just go and live in the US or else where for the rest of his life? Sounds like vacation/paradise but that is more complicated than just picking the bad and leaving.

    I am very sorry for this long blog but i do hope to enlighten or at least stir or provoke more question or calm some of the queries.

    Best Regards,

  13. Seletar says:

    I’m generally negative about ICJ, too.

    I don’t think our participation in the Caribbean court has been in the best interest of Belizeans — we have unique problems from other Caricom countries, because we are physically within Central America, and share more crime problems with them. We handed part of our sovereignty to foreigners, and they have tied our hands in how we punish the people who murder fellow Belizeans. That’s wrong.

    I would rather die fighting to keep all of Belize free, than to let a foreign court hand us over to any other country, where we would be a tiny, insignificant minority with absolutely no political power. I don’t want to take even the tiniest chance with Belize being killed off.

    @CEO is right, the Guats could drop their claim today and solve the problem. ICJ is just a free shot for them to try to make a grab, but if they lose, we’ll be back exactly where we are, facing a neighbor that still wants what we have, and has the means to take it by force. Belize has to prepare to make the price of taking it higher than the Guats are willing to pay.

  14. Franz Menzies says:

    Generally I agree with Seletar. The ICJ is a no-win proposition for Belize, because at best we only get to re-affirm that all of Belize is for Belizeans (Why do we need this as a full and independent UN member ?) and Guatemala ignores the ICJ ruling to continue subjugation of Belize. The nature of the tiger does not change because he decides to lick your face instead of biting your head off. If the Guatemalans win anything at all at the ICJ, then Belize according to an internationally binding ruling will be dismembered and eventually destroyed as a nation state. We can get the diplomatic victory and still lose in realpolitik terms because of the military and population disparity. Belize’s 300,000 people vs. Guatemala’s 14 millions spells disaster for us even in slow motion. So the solution remains jaw-jaw while preparing for war-war. We should carry on talking, trading, maintain ambassadors, but – landmine the bloody border with Guatemala especially into Chiquibul, put in all the observation posts we need on our side, add another battalion to the BDF finances permitting, keep open our 911 line to the UK’s 16 Air Assault Brigade (Commonwealth membership counts for something), and invite permanent military presences/alliances in Belize from Canada, Cuba, Jamaica, etc. and Holdfast! till the end of time or Guatemala drops its claim. Very depressing plan so what else is there? Weakness has always only invited further aggression.

  15. Jennifer says:

    LETS VOTE NO if we do this we will loose everything Guatemala has no right to come and take what is rightfully ours for years and years stand against this and vote not Belize we can so this we just need to stick together we can beat Guatemala I love my beautiful country of Belize and I know everyone else does as well we can loos half

  16. Just A Kid says:

    I do believe what Quatemala Wants is an Exit. To the Caribbean sea But not only that there has to be something behind that Petition Something Big..Big And some One is not being HONEST Whit His People like we all know by now it is all about MONEY YES MONEY.
    They Getting richer And We Out here struggling At every day that comes by…

  17. J . I . says:


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