HOW YOU CAN END THE GUATEMALAN
This paper is about Guatemala´s claim to the territory of Belize and the recent decision by the governments of both countries to submit the claim to the International Court of Justice for final binding adjudication and for delimiting their respective land and maritime borders. It gives a short history of the claim and describes efforts by Britain and Belize to resolve the dispute, Belize´s attainment of independence in 1981 and subsequent attempts to end the dispute. The paper is written from the viewpoint of a Belizean, and focuses on the decision to submit the dispute to the ICJ after simultaneous referenda in both countries approve such submission, examines arguments for and against going to the ICJ and argues forcefully that it is in the best interests of both countries to have the dispute finally ended by a decision of the ICJ.
Assad Shoman holds a PH.D. in history/international relations from London University, an M.A. in international relations from Sussex University and qualified as an attorney-at-law in London. He led the international campaign at the United Nations and participated in negotiations that resulted in Belize’s independence. He also headed the negotiations that produced the Facilitation Process with the participation of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) and, after Guatemala rejected the agreed Proposals, the negotiations that opened the way for the dispute to be submitted to the ICJ. He is the author of several books and articles on Belize, and in the early years of the 21st century was the Foreign Minister of Belize.
Belize, Guatemala, Great Britain, UN, OAS, ICJ, territorial dispute
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A QUICK ROMP THROUGH BELIZE HISTORY
THE GUATEMALAN CLAIM AND BRITISH ATTEMPTS TO RESOLVE IT
BIRTH OF A NATION: BELIZEANS ACHIEVE INDEPENDENCE
POST- INDEPENDENCE ATTEMPTS TO END THE CLAIM
WHY WE NEED TO END THE DISPUTE
ARGUMENTS AGAINST GOING TO THE ICJ
WHAT WE CAN EXPECT FROM THE ICJ
WHY WE SHOULD VOTE YES
1. YES BELIZE
provide that, the ICJ. Think about any case you may have to
fight and you go to a lawyer. The first thing she or he will tell you is: “tell me the truth. I can only defend you properly if I know the whole truth”. The reason is obvious: if you tell your lawyer a lie and she presents that in court and the
other side proves that it is a lie, where do you stand? The
judge or the jury will not believe anything you say, and your case is lost.
Let me tell you straight up: I write this little booklet to try to convince you, the Belizean people, that the best option we
have to resolve the Guatemalan claim once and for all is to
submit the matter to the International Court of Justice
(ICJ). I firmly believe this, based on the facts, the history of negotiations, previous decisions of the ICJ and the strength of our legal position.
So it would be fatal to our case if we told even one lie. The great thing is that we don’t need to lie to win our case. We can tell every truth about the history of our rightful claim to this land, from the Hondo to the Sarstoon and everything
in between, islands and seas and all, and win our case hands down. I will therefore include material that no doubt the
Guatemalans will use in presenting their case. I wouldn’t
want you to hear those facts or arguments later and then
say to me, well why did you hide that from us?
The Guatemalan claim to our territory could have been
ended, and not only in the 19th century, when, most
famously, Britain refused to pay a paltry sum of £50,000
that would have spared us all the troubles we’ve had, but
also at least twice since independence....
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