Issues, Thoughts

On discussing part of our path to the ICJ

I had this discussion on Facebook with some friends about one part of the Belize – Guatemala claim and going to the ICJ.  My concern here is more to the point of we have never taken this issue to any legal body before.

English: Central American Integration System E...
English: Central American Integration System Español: Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cayo Buay SO, I keep hearing of all these cases and such that Belize has won. What courts have these cases been brought up in?

Glenn Tillett I did not use the word “courts” Cayo Buay, I said forums.

Cayo Buay Either way.. Where?

Cayo Buay What do you mean by forum? My understanding of forum is just a bunch of people discussing ideas and positions on things and at the end of the day they are just that; opinions.

Glenn Tillett When we wanted to join any organization and Guatemala objected, for example, FIFA, (the Association of International Football Federations), we had to argue, that is make our case to their membership that we should be recognized as an independent state and admitted as such. Guatemala was already a member of all these organization and sought to have us denied membership by making its case that it had a just claim to our territory. Wherever that hearing was held could be described as a “forum”.

Cayo Buay I understand that Glenn.. But what I am heading to with this is are those “wins” legal or are they just other states giving their opinions showing they accept us or not?

Glenn Tillett Those were not “legal” rulings Cayo Buay, and that is why I have made the point that about the only thing we have not gotten in this dispute is a ruling by a court on the legal aspects of the claim. We have “won” on every other front and in every aspect.

Cayo Buay Ok. So we have not gotten a ruling in any court yet?

Glenn Tillett Not as far as I know.

Cayo Buay Interesting..

Cayo Buay What about the Central American Court? Why have we not brought this issue to them? They did take the case of Guatemala – Honduras in the 30’s no?

Cayo Buay How then are we saying that we have no other choice BUT to go to the ICJ when we apparently haven’t looked at other options in all these decades?

Glenn Tillett I do not think we would’ve regarded the Central American Court of Justice as a good forum for us Cayo Buay, especially back in the 30’s when all of the other countries in Central America supported Guatemala’s claim. By the time we became independent and we had persuaded the other countries to support us the court was nearly moribund, I think. It was revived in the early 1990’s I think to serve mainly as an forum for adjudicating disputes arising out of SICA, similar to the function that the Caribbean Court of Justice serves for CARICOM.
I am not 100% sure, however, and will have to research the matter further.

Cayo Buay So why not now? Why not look at other options before taking a leap of faith with only opinions on our side?

Cayo BuayToday, the Central American Court of Justice has jurisdiction, inter alia, to resolve: legal disputes on any issue arising between States, actions challenging the legitimacy or compliance of State law or actions with SICA agreements, disputes between government organs, and actions by individuals affected by a SICA agreement or actor. See Statute of the Central American Court of Justice, art. 22. The Court also issues opinions on the interpretation of SICA instruments, when requested by a national court in a pending case or by a State. Id., art. 22(k), 23.” (excerpt from this piece on the CACJ)

Glenn Tillett I do not quite understand your contention that we should ask Guatemala to have the matter heard in another court rather than the ICJ, I fail to see how that would help? I think firstly, if you are already troubled by the possibility of bias at the ICJ, that fear would magnified x1,000 in contemplating going to the Central American Court of Justice.
I’m also not sure if the CACJ would have jurisdiction. I read where their charter contemplates or encompasses: “Today, the Central American Court of Justice has jurisdiction, inter alia, to resolve: legal disputes on any issue arising between States, actions challenging the legitimacy or compliance of State law or actions with SICA agreements, disputes between government organs, and actions by individuals affected by a SICA agreement or actor. See Statute of the Central American Court of Justice, art. 22. The Court also issues opinions on the interpretation of SICA instruments, when requested by a national court in a pending case or by a State. Id., art. 22(k), 23.” but it does not specifically refer to boundary disputes or territorial claims.
Lastly, why would you want to resort to a regional court when the acknowledged international experts are available?

Cayo Buay Well, when a case comes up do you just go to the supreme court?

Glenn Tillett Within your borders, yes but I do not think there is a parallel in international jurisprudence. What we have done instead since 2005, is agree to a process where we tried negotiations first, then mediation second, and finally, those having failed, adjudication.

Cayo Buay I fail to see why we would not at least have attempted regional courts and build up legal ammunition…
What concerns me is that we are saying we have a solid case based on what seems to be mere opinions from other states.
I also find it humorous how when I presented my links and such there were opinions and could not be taken serious but when basing on the opinions of other states it is ok…

Cayo Buay So the CACJ is not the same as our regional Supreme Court?

Cayo Buay This is seriously not making sense at all…
We have a regional body that Belize and Guatemala are members of, there is a Court Justice that “has jurisdiction, inter alia, to resolve: legal disputes on any issue arising between States” but we are saying that they may not be competent to deal with issues they were setup for and that we would completely ignore the fact that they are there to deal with the exact issue we are dealing with and not even contemplate taking our case to them if even to gain a SOLID legal case in our favor.

Glenn Tillett I’ll have to leave you with your opinion Cayo Buay, but I see no advantage in going before a regional court, unless it was the Caribbean Court of Justice, simply because the judges there might be more disposed to our cause. Guatemala, not being a member of CARICOM, would simply refuse to even entertain the notion. I doubt you could get any Belizean to ever agree that going to the Central American Court of Justice is a “good” idea.
And no, I do not consider the CACJ our regional “Supreme Court” – I can only reiterate that our national system does not parallel the international system.

Cayo Buay So the CACJ is worth a load of crap when it comes to their purpose?

Cayo Buay Why are we even in SICA anyway if we will say that the court system that should be the defact for member states can’t even respect it?

Glenn Tillett And I sincerely think that you are not deliberately being a bit obtuse but that you are not fully apprised of what may be the nuanced difference between resorting to a regional court and THE international court.
I will continue to give it some consideration and see if I can answer in a manner more conducive to your understanding.

Oliver del Cid The Central American Court of Justice would not be as versed in international jurisprudence to the extent that the International Court of Justice is. It would likely rule based primarily on Latin American law which includes, as I had mentioned in one thread another, a different treatment of uti possidetis than when the parties to the dispute were not of the same colonial power.
The reason the ICJ is the best choice is because it is THE supreme international (as opposed to regional) court.

Oliver del Cid Guatemala will not drop its claim and Belize has nothing to give up.
Whoever feels that we should continue to negotiate with Guatemala, feel free to find and suggest a middle ground that hundreds of British, Belizean and Guatemalan officials have not been able to find in more than 250 years.

Oliver del Cid It is important for everyone who reads these threads to understand that whether we are pro-ICJ or anti-ICJ, we are without a doubt on the same side – we all believe that Belize must maintain its territorial integrity. The difference is where we see a solution.

Glenn Tillett Cayo Buay, I was hopeful that you would think your way through what you’ve asked. Why would Belize or Guatemala “rush” to court? We are considering going to the ICJ following a process where we tried negotiations, and when that failed, mediation through the appointment of two facilitators who considered the dispute and made a series of proposals. Guatemala rejected those proposals so that failed as well. It is after those failed that we are now considering adjudication, that is to say, have the legal aspects of the claim examined by a court and having them pronounce on them.

Cayo Buay Exactly del Cid. But we MUST not forget to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing BUT the TRUTH.. ALWAYS.

Oliver del Cid Cayo Buay the matter has not been taken to any court. You may have mistaken court for international fora (such as the UN, OAS, NAM, etc.). If we HAD taken it to a court of some sort it would have been a binding ruling and that would have been the end of that. International Law is not like national law where you can appeal the lower court rulings until you get to a supreme court

Glenn Tillett As Ambassador del Cid points out, and I have said to you twice before, there is no “international supreme court system” that parallels our national court system. You seem to be under the misapprehension that we could just go to a court, get a ruling,and if we chose to, appeal that ruling to a higher court. It doesn’t work that way. First both countries have to agree to go to court, and which court they would want to hear the matter.
There is no point in going to a regional court when the ICJ has the best jurists and we can recourse to that court.

Oliver del Cid I don’t know anyone who has been dealing with the Belize-Guatemala issue, in either the PUP or the UDP, who would dare to lie to Belizean people on this subject.

Cayo Buay I was asking because I keep hearing people say ‘We have many wins on our side” and some referring to them as if they were legal cases.
I did Glenn, I have been thinking about the back and forth conversation we had and it still was not sitting well; which is why I asked others to see if we could get a full base from different angles (Not that I doubt you, I do not) so we can get a full picture.
del Cid … I ask, why have we not taken this to any legal body before? Is it that these courts that have been setup to deal with regional issues are literally worth crap and are just there for show?
Why do we have regional courts if they will not be utilized or will be seen as not fit to do the jobs they are there to do?

Cayo Buay I get all that Glenn .. My issue remains that we NEVER bothered to take this issue to a legal body and the people are being lied to that EVERYTHING under the sky was / has been done to resolve the situation.

Glenn Tillett Who said that Cayo Buay?

Cayo Buay I don’t recall exactly who Glenn as there have been so many threads about this and so many people involved but it did come up in one of the threads.

Glenn Tillett Cayo Buay I suggest you go look for it otherwise I have to take your statement under “advisement” since I do not recall anyone making any such statement. I have said in answer to your questions that we have done just about everything BUT gone to court. I have explained several times that going to court,so to speak, is the last part of a three step process. You really do need to go read up on the history of the dispute, and see for yourself what has been done and when, as well as by whom.

Cayo Buay Isn’t that part of educating the people Glenn? For people to ask and get answers from those that know?
If one has to research everything then why spend the money for educating?

I ask because I do not know fully where to look or what to look for to get ALL the history of this issue. It would be nice tho to have a central location that has the actual documents for one to see first hand.

Cayo Buay So del Cid.. Two questions … Why only most regional courts have their ruling as binding?
Would the Central American Court not be binding? They did settle a case between Honduras and Guatemala before and it was binding.

Oliver del Cid Cayo Buay No, regional courts aren’t for show. Their work is usually much different than that of the ICJ and their approach to the law is more regional than international. I don’t know about you, but I would be more comfortable with an international court like the ICJ than a Central American court (because it would rely almost exclusively on Latin American interpretation of International Law). I suspect Guatemala would feel the same comparing the ICJ to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Cayo Buay But are we not Latin American states? I am seriously not comprehending why we cannot take a regional court seriously and that their ruling would be binding.

Cayo Buay Well, they are not part of Caricom so I do not expect them to want to go to that court either. That is a given.

Oliver del Cid Cayo Buay I think you are forgetting that we are a Common Law state. Our legal system is based on British Common Law as opposed to the Roman Law. We are a member state of SICA but we still have a different legal system.

Cayo Buay And please understand I am not purposefully being ignorant here. I am honestly NOT getting the why to the argument of why not consult a ruling from a Regional Court that has settled disputes before and have that purpose under their portfolio.

Cayo Buay Ok.. And what system is the ICJ and Guatemala?

Cayo Buay Ok guys.. That legal system difference thing really makes no sense to me. honestly, if a court makes a judgment and it is binding, does it matter what legal system it follows?

If I am a Islamic person and do not believe in the Laws of a certain land (let’s say Roman Law) and I get taken to court, can I demand that I be taken to a court that is “more knowing of all laws” because the law in that place is more prone to judging me unfairly or that it may not be suitable to judge me and I refuse to go to that court?

Just trying to make a comparison here..

Your Voice

Knowing the following:

  1. We have never taken this case to a legal body.
  2. There is a regional court CACJ (Central America Court Justice) that is setup to deal with Latin American state issues.

My question to you now is:


22 thoughts on “On discussing part of our path to the ICJ”

  1. I wouldn’t vote for us to go to any court because Belize does not need to reinforce that she does not belong to Guatemala.Guatemala’s claim is unfounded. If they believe that they own Belize because of Spain’s claim to us way back when, then they belong to Spain as well…and Spain should claim both countries.

    Another thing, we tend to lose land to Guatemala at times because of trying to settle this claim. Going to court would lead to us losing even more land…not to mention we’d have to pay to go to court as well….Waste of money on account of Guatemala’s senseless claim!

  2. Although I have voted in this poll, the real truth is there should be no court case as the claim has always been spurious and shouldn’t even be considered.

  3. I agree and share the exact sentiments with both of you. As far as I am concerned, we have nothing to prove to anyone. All this crap irks me because if looked at closely, one clearly sees that this is really is about more than just the claim or border lines.
    Thanks for participating.

  4. The reason I vote yes is this, if we must take this to a court for hearing I would prefer it be to a regional court that is setup to do this type of remediation and has done so in the past successfully. I would prefer that we find other ways of solving this issue like demanding that what is already accepted be enforced to start with, I bet our legal minds can come up with other solutions as well.

  5. Which Court ruled (not settled) the dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica? Ans: The ICJ
    Between Nicaragua and Colombia (again ruled, not settled). Ans: the ICJ.

  6. What we have to realize here also is that if we go directly to the ICJ, there is no other place to go to after that.
    What if they rule in favor of Guatemala?
    What if they rule in favor of Belize and Guatemala does not cease?

    1. “What if they rule in favor of Belize and Guatemala does not cease?”

      That is the real question right there, all the rulings in the world so far and all the discussions and past agreements have failed to stop their claim yet here we are again arguing with what is in reality a pointless argument. Belize belongs to Belize and that is the start and finish of it all. I don’t believe this will ever be settled and Belize is just throwing money into a bottomless pit trying to satisfy Guatemala when we all know until Belize belongs to them no ruling will change their claim to the land.

  7. What I find smelling of a dead rat is the Education Campaign telling people certain things despite evidence like this from the The ACP-EU Joint Assembly showing :

    A. recalling United Nations General Assembly Resolution 35/20 of 11 November 1980, which reaffirmed the inalienable right of the people of Belize to self-determination, independence and territorial integrity and called on all parties concerned to respect that right,
    D. deeply disturbed that despite the fact that Guatemala has stated categorically that it will not resort to the threat or use of force to pursue its claim, on 24 February 2000 elements of the Guatemalan Armed Forces violated the territorial integrity of Belize, unlawfully entered Belizean territory, forced three members of the Belize Defence Force and one member of the Police Department to cross over into Guatemalan territory and then illegally held them prisoner for over a week,
    1. Declares its unequivocal support for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Belize in accordance with its long-established and internationally recognised borders;
    2. Condemns the action of the Guatemalan Armed Forces in invading Belize’s territory and unlawfully kidnapping four members of Belize’s security forces;
    6. Calls upon both governments to continue their discussions to put into effect measures that will ease tensions along their border, and to establish a process for the early and definitive settlement of their differences in accordance with the principles and practices of the United Nations and with full respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Belize;

    Notice that all the entries show the exact opposite of what we are being told..
    Our borders have LONG been accepted as they are in our constitution.

  8. If Guatemala couldn’t have it by force, why would we want to give it willingly? I will stick to what i believe, that we would lose more than gain at the ICJ. So am I illegally living the land my parents gave me, what our people fought for?

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