Today at the house, Prime Minister John Briceno also informed his colleagues and the general public that Belize has submitted its counter-memorial to the International Court of Justice, in the Hague, Netherlands.
This, of course, is the ICJ process where Guatemala's territorial claim against Belize for land, insular territories, and maritime areas is meant to be finally settled.
Belize's Counter-Memorial responds to Guatemala's 500-page Memorial, which details what Guatemala is claiming in terms of Belize's territorial lands, islands, and sea spaces, and on what legal grounds.
This counter-memorial came up recently because the government insisted that they were in need of Ambassador Alexis Rosado's input as Belize's Co-Agent. They asserted that they could not bench him at this very late hour, even though Rosado is facing criminal charges for rape.
Today, the Prime Minister announced that Belize's legal team was able to submit the country's counter-memorial 5 days ahead of the required deadline:
Hon. John Briceno - Prime Minister
"Madam Speaker, June 3rd is a historic day for Belize I can report to this honorable House and to the Belizean people that earlier. Belize filed its counter-memorial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Our counter-memorial provides a strong defense to Guatemala's memorial or to their claim and resolutely defends the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Belize. Madam Speaker, the International Court of Justice assumed jurisdiction over Guatemala's territorial, insular, and maritime claim against Belize on 7th June 2019. This was after Belize informed the court that Belizeans had, by referendum, approved submitting the dispute to the ICJ. The matter before the court was defined by the special agreement signed by Belize and Guatemala on 8th December 2008. By this special agreement, Guatemala must submit its reply to Belize's Counter-Memorial by 3rd December 2022. Belize will have six months thereafter to deliver our rejoiner, so that by June 2023, we expect the written pleadings in the case to have closed. Assuming that there are no further delays, the court will proceed to set a date for a hearing which I am advised, can occur in 2024, if not before. the Belize Counter-Memorial was carefully drafted by Belizeans in the office of the Agent, and our external team of lawyers and a hydrographer retained by Belize. We look forward to the day when the Court delivers its decision after which Article five of the special agreement will be triggered. This article states the parties shall accept the decision of the court as final and binding and undertake to comply with and implement it in full and in good faith."
As you heard the Prime Minister explain, Guatemala is due to submit its reply to Belize's counter-memorial in December of this year. Belize will have until June 2023 to submit its rejoinder, and then the court is will set a date for oral hearings.
Belize Submits Counter-Memorial to The Hauge
Belize submitted its counter-memorial to the Registrar of the International Court of Justice in the Hague today. The Government of Belize stated via press release earlier that the counter-memorial makes a robust defense of Belize’s sovereignty over its entire territory, including islands, and the pertaining maritime areas in accordance with international law. According to the timetable announced by the court, which was amended during the pandemic, Guatemala submitted its memorial on December eight, 2021, and is due to submit its reply to Belize’s counter-memorial in December of 2022. Belize will then have until June 2023 to submit its rejoinder, after which the court will set a date for the oral hearing. Prime Minister Briceño made the announcement today inside the National Assembly.
Prime Minister John Briceno
“June Third is a historic day for Belize. I can report to this honorable House and to the Belizean people that earlier, Belize filed its Counter-Memorial at the International Court of Justice in The Hauge. Our Counter Memorial provides a strong defense to Guatemala’s Memorial or to their claim and resolutely defends the sovereignty, the territorial integrity, and independence of Belize. By this special agreement, Guatemala must submit its reply to Belize’s counter memorial by third December 2022. Belize will have six months thereafter to deliver our rejoinder so that by June 2023 we expect the written pleadings in the case to have closed. This of course assumes that there will be no further events or eventuality that might delay this case. Assuming that there is no further delay, the court will proceed to set a date for hearing which I am advised can occur in 2024 if not before. Although rules of court prevents us from disclosing details of the pleadings of either party, Belizeans can rest assured that a strong, clear, and powerful case has been made for all our territory, continental ad insular , as well as the maritime areas as determined by international law.”
PM Briceño Makes Appeal to Guatemalan Government on Border Matters
PM Briceño went on to make an appeal to the government of Guatemala for its adherence to the confidence building measures established between Belize and Guatemala in 2005. PM Briceño highlighted Belize’s persisting challenge with illegal border crossing, narco-trafficking and illegal farming, among other issues along the western border.
Prime Minister John Briceno
“We continue to appeal to Guatemala to adhere to the Confidence Building Measures in place since 2005, which requires foe example our government, both government to clear the areas around the three reference markers at Gracias Adios, Garbutt Falls, and Aguas Turbias. The Guatemalan Government also undertook to dissuade its citizens from crossing illegally into Belize. But, we continue to have problems with Guatemalans occupying Belize near the Western Border. Narco-trafficking continues to pose a security problem, while illegal logging, farming, pouching and mining continues to cause significant damage to our environment and wellbeing. Similarly, the Guatemalan government has refused to abide by repeated commitment to negotiate confidence building measures regarding the Sarstoon River in defiance of appeals by international bodies. Again, we urge the government of Guatemala to put into effect its undertaking the agreed CBS for the Sarstoon.”