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May 3, 2013

Maritime law expert says that Belize could lose some of its sea

In Australia, Professor Gullett works along with the University of Wollongong’s research center in ocean law and policy. While Gullet believes that the ICJ would rule in Belize’s favor on land, his expertise in maritime law compels him to believe that the country may lose territorial waters because of the concave area shared with Guatemala and Honduras.


Jose Sanchez

“Over a decade ago, the government of Belize commissioned a legal commission regarding the sovereignty and territorial boundaries. But within that one hundred something page document, maritime area seems to be a very tricky, sticking point. Can we lose or do we have something to gain when it comes to maritime?


Professor Warwick Gullett, Dean, University of Wollongong

Warwick Gullett

“How to work out the boundary at sea and there are two ways to do this.  First way is to have an agreement with Guatemala. Second way is if there can’t be an agreement with Guatemala, but Belize and Guatemala can agree to send it off to a third party dispute such as the ICJ or the international tribunal for law and sea. And this is where things get a little bit murky. The principles are working out sovereignty over land are far more clear cut than the issues of maritime boundaries at sea. So the international courts, principally the ICJ has developed a three-step process for working out where an ocean boundary would lie. Where the difficulty is, is that when they have made their decisions and clear reasons about how they’ve made adjustments to the line.  So they will look at making a mathematically correct equal distance line between Belize and Guatemala. So the line will extend out from the land boundary and every point of that line hitting at the sea will be of equal distance between Belize and Guatemala. That is the starting of position. That the ICJ or other tribunals would then look at the line to see if it’s fair. The purpose is to set a line that is equitable. And the key factor that the court would look at is the coastline of Belize and the coastline of Guatemala; look at the relative length of it and look at the fact that Guatemala in the Gulf of Honduras is in a concave area—squeezed in between Belize and Honduras. Most likely, based on previous cases, the ICJ would give a little more relief to Guatemala in recognition that it is otherwise being squeezed by these two other states. But what we don’t know is how much relief that would be. And that area is also complicated because you got the other islands around there including Sapodilla Cayes and other islands around there which can have a distorted effect as to where the boundary line should be. Even though we have a fairly clear process developed by the ICJ to work out maritime boundaries, it can be complicated in the Gulf of Honduras and there is no certainty beforehand which way the ICJ would go. I think you would have to work out the mathematical equal distance line and there will be some deviation that will benefit Guatemala, but how great that would be is difficult to ascertain.”


Gullett says that he is hoping to work along with the University of West Indies and University of Belize for short term courses on general law of the sea, international fisheries law or maritime boundary delimitation.

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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3 Responses for “Maritime law expert says that Belize could lose some of its sea”

  1. Rod says:

    I say not one piece of land or sea should be given to Guatemala we are sick and tired of them holding us hostage with their insane claim to any of Belize this is the kind of thing the us ambassador should be helping Belize with instead of giving out paper awards and ballons no wonder the us ambassador in Ecuador has been kicked out of the country not one inch of land . People we need to mine the entire border with land mines and post signs so if any one is killed their then they deserve it I am for mining the whole border vote on this people vote.

  2. Stewart says:

    One of the reasons why Belize is the most backward nation in this region is because most Belizeans refuse to think for themselves. We can blame the British and the churches for that but at some point we need to start annalyzing things for ourselves and start asking the right questions. We have accepted without any critical thinking that Guatemala’s claim is unfounded. We keep banging our heads against the wall to the same tune repeatedly every time this issue comes up. Guatemala is not backing down. So how do we resolve this matter without going to the ICJ? I suggest we educate ourselves fully on the matter. If Guatemala is holding so strongly to their claim they must have some basis for that. Why do they so strongly believe that they have a legitimate claim? We can’t just ignore that fact and call them crazy. Do your research and find out the truth.

    With that said I think it is important for us to listen and consider the expert opinions on this matter. We won’t be able to resolve this issue with our neighbors until we fully educate ourselves. Expert opinions and insights can stimulate our minds to gain more knowledge on the matter. We must not ignore them.

  3. vernonda says:

    I agree with you Rod. The entire border should be mined.

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