After over 2 years of supposedly ‘leading’ the negotiations
for the settlement of the Guatemalan claim on Belize, the
Organization of American States (OAS) has called it quits
and its Secretary General, H.E. Jose Miguel Insulza, has
recommended that the claim be settled at the International
Court of Justice (ICJ). This is nothing less than was
expected by Belizeans, and the vast majority is extremely
disappointed that with the OAS taking lead, we have now
‘lost’ our official Border to a so-called Adjacency Zone,
we now have what Belizeans fear are ‘permanent’ Guatemalan
settlements and buildings on Belizean territory and
Guatemalan ‘farmers and harvesters’ clearing and farming
our land with seeming impunity.

According to its website, the ICJ is the principal judicial
organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in
June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began
work in April 1946. The Court’s role is to settle, in
accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted
to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal
questions referred to it by authorized United Nations
organs and specialized agencies. The Court is composed of
15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine
years by the United Nations General Assembly and the
Security Council. The Court can only deal with a dispute
when the States concerned have recognized its jurisdiction.
No State can therefore be a party to proceedings before the
Court unless it has in some manner or other consented
thereto.

Both Belize and Guatemala are entitled to appear before the
ICJ, therefore it should be no problem to bring the dispute
before it, as long as both parties consent to it. In the
case of Belize , it is constitutionally required that any
decision to take the issue to the ICJ be made by a
referendum of the people of Belize . Should Guatemala also
require a referendum, then both are likely to be scheduled
for the same day.

According to a statement issued by Prime Minister Said
Musa, it became clear that several issues could not be
agreed upon, hence the OAS’ recommendation for a final
settlement at the ICJ. He indicated that for Belize there
will be “comprehensive consultations to give it careful
analysis” before going to a referendum, none of which will
take place before the next General Elections. He also
‘reassured’ Belizeans that the illegal settlers at Santa
Rosa “will be removed within a short time”, something we
have been hearing for well over a year now.

Quite interestingly, the Belize Press Office circulated the
statement after 12:00 noon on Tuesday November 20, 2007,
and indicated that the Prime Minister would be available
for questions only during the period of 1:00 – 1:30 pm on
that day, with interested parties being able to arrange for
such questions with Foreign Affairs or the Cabinet
Secretary during the lunch hour when offices are closed. He
then left the country immediately after before giving any
details about the so-called adjacency Zone and its
cancellation.

At the end of the day, the final decision on the
Belize-Guatemala Differendum is in the hands of the people.
The people generally believe the Guatemalan claim to be
unfounded and would prefer the UN to simply impose ‘our
will’ on Guatemala , after which we may act as good
neighbours should. Many of us also believe that it is only
the ‘elite’ Guatemalans and their American and European
‘partners’ who really claim Belize, therefore we are very
wary of the influence they have over the UN, particularly
in the Security Council. For this reason, many Belizeans
would just as soon ignore the claim. Only time will tell
what position is ultimately accepted by Belizeans, and we
must all be ready to defend that position, in whatever form
required.

source: guardian.bz.com dated Sunday, November 25, 2007