Turning back now to the ICJ referendum, we got a chance yesterday to speak with Assad Shoman about the Belize Peace Movement - which exists for the singular purpose of spreading the "No to the ICJ" message.
You'll remember that the Belizeans who make up this organization are all persons who are pushing for Belize to vote "no" to taking Guatemala's territorial Claim to the ICJ for resolution.
In their press conference last week, the Peace Movement accused the government officials of the present and the past of attempting to lure the general public into a false sense of security about the strength of Belize's case, should this matter ever go to the court.
We put this allegation to the panelist of 5 former Foreign Ministers at yesterday's big event, and Assad Shoman was the one who gave a response. We'll show you what he had to say, but first, for context, we re-air what the Patrick Rogers of the Peace Movement had to say about the disputed 1859 Treaty, and what it could mean for the territorial claim:
Patrick Rogers - Member, Belize Peace Movement
"Everyone that I've listened to claim that this boundary treaty is iron-clad, there remains only 1 article to be fulfilled in this boundary treaty, that of Article 7, which they claim was just a little cart road was to be built. When you read this 1931 Exchange of Notes, you will find in here that the British got with the Guatemalans in 1929 to effectively complete this treaty, by fulfilling Articles 2, 3, and 4. It was the second such attempt that the British made, unsuccessfully, as I will show. Because, in effect for our case to have been iron-clad, this boundary's treaty would have needed a supplementary compensatory treaty, as was attempted by the British in 1863, when they offered 50,000 pounds to settle Article 7, no less. You see, had that treaty been, we would have had, immediately after that, Guatemala would have gotten paid, Article 7 fulfilled. Immediately after that, Guatemala would have went ahead and fulfilled 2, 3 and 4, which is to say, get with us and mark the boundary all the way to the Mexican frontier. That has not happened up to today. You see, up to today, what the British did, after 1929 started, they only went up Gracias a Dios, Garbutts Falls. The Guatemalans say let's effect Article 7, pay me before I go through with you to effect 2, 3, and 4. The British didn't want to pay, and so, the Guatemalans pulled out. So, from 1929, the British waited 2 years to see if the Guatemalans would come back to the table, which they didn't, and so, the British prepared an Exchange of Notes that the figured would get them to claim that this treaty has been fully effected. What did the Guatemalan reply look like? See it here, 1 paragraph. And what did they respond saying? These monuments thus determined, form part of the boundary between British Honduras and the Republic of Guatemala. So, they did not accept the British letter, of Exchange of Note, stating that the joint boundaries report, which is attached here, was in fulfilment of Articles 2, 3, and 4. They just said that it represents part of the boundaries between our respective territories. Our case is not as iron-clad as they made us out to believe. A lot of people got these documents and don't read and reason. Because, had they done that, they would have realized a long time ago what we're heading up to. We're heading up to the fact that we couldn't get Guatemala to the table, to demarcate jointly from Garbutt's Falls to the Mexican Frontier, now a 160 years later, this treaty will finally effected by the ICJ judges, playing the role of arbitrator, since we couldn't do it together."
Here's now is Shoman, who is widely recognized as the most knowledgeable Belizean on the territorial claim:
Assad Shoman - Former Foreign Minister
"This thing has been studied over many many years. The fact is that we have had for ourselves, Belize for example, we've had 2 legal opinions that we commissioned, 1 in 1978, and one in 2001. Both of them, incidentally, included Sir Elihu Lauterpacht. The second one also included a recent president of the ICJ. It included one of the highest recognized experts on treaty law from Israel, actually, called Shabtai Rosenne. And it included a very distinguished Latin American jurist from Chile. Guatemala also, itself, commissioned, at the time, probably the most renown judge of the United States of America called Manley Hopkins. And since then, [they] have commissioned other lawyers to give on this case. And they - all of these that I've mentioned - have unanimously said that the 1859 treaty is a solid treaty. It's a boundary treaty. The issue about article 7 not having been complied [with] or not has nothing to do with the resolution of the questions as to the boundaries so defined in the treaty. And they've all concluded that those boundaries cannot be changed by anything that Guatemala is (inaudible). So, now we have a group of Belizeans saying that they have found more deficiencies in that treaty than Guatemala itself found, because of course, Guatemala had to submit all the evidence, and all the issues it had to these lawyers that advised them. I don't think its credible, that's all. I mean, we're not gonna spend hours pick on legal issues. I'm just saying look at that fact, those that I've stated, and tell me who you believe."
The Peace Movement says that they will hold a press conference on the ICJ next week. We'll tell you what they have to say then.
Guatemala Inherited Belize from Spain? Rubbish, Says Assad Shoman
With all the talk of an age-old territorial dispute and a possible resolution at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the unfounded claim brought by Guatemala isn’t as clear-cut as one would think. According to Assad Shoman, the nature of Guatemala’s demand is conflicted, since it has argued in the past that the territory which Belize occupies was inherited from Spain prior to the 1859 Treaty. Ironically, Guatemala’s independence was not recognized until four years later. Likewise, he says that Guatemala itself recognizes Belize as a sovereign state.
Assad Shoman, Former Foreign Minister
“There was a problem about getting Guatemala to be precise, what are you claiming, because obviously it would be nice to know that. They were in a very difficult position because, first of all, remember that historically they have claimed the entire country, saying “Oh, we inherited that from Spain.” Which is rubbish and I could tell you why very quickly, because, for example, Spain did not recognize Guatemala at all until 1863, years after the 1859 Treaty. So how could they inherit anything from a country that didn’t even recognize them? But anyhow, that was their problem. That was their position that they inherited all that territory. So how are they going to say anything less than that? Well, they got into a worse problem when Belize became independent and the whole world recognized Belize. How are you not going to say that it has any territory? But even worse, when Guatemala itself recognized Belize. How can they say that a state has no territory and they have recognized that state?”