Concerns of question Belizeans will answer in April
November 29, 2018
International law experts share details on dispute settlements
November 29, 2018

International law experts speak on Belize-Guatemala dispute

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2018. 3:58 pm CST.

BBN Staff: Belizeans will decide on April 10, 2019, if we want to take the case of Guatemala’s claim on Belize’s territory to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for final settlement. Journalists came to The Hague, Netherlands seeking answers for the many questions that Belizeans have and today met with two experts in international law.

The journalists today met with the two international experts at Leiden University at The Hague. Leiden University is known as the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies.

Professor Eric de Brabandere and Professor Giulia Pinzauti are both experts in international law, international criminal law and international dispute settlements.

Dr. Pinzauti previously served as an associate legal officer at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Dr. Brabandere is also an attorney.

Brabandere told us that the Belize-Guatemala case is a very special case because to his knowledge, there has not been a claim where a country claims almost half of another country: “ This is a very sensitive case because of the gravity and extent of the claim. I wasn’t aware that Guatemala was claiming a large portion of the territory. There have also been other sensitive cases that have gone to the ICJ.”

With relation to the Special Agreement, Dr. Brabandere said that it is usual for the wording of Special Agreements to be broad as to allow all claims to be settled, so that the dispute is finally ended: “ In a Special Agreement, you do not define your claim, you define the dispute. So you are not saying I will claim this and the other state with claim that. What you say is this is the precise contours of the dispute we submit to the court. In your situation I can imagine that you define the dispute as the boundary dispute of the precise location of the boundary between the two states and the consequences that follow from this.”

Brabandere explained that in Special Agreements, countries usually define the dispute not the claim that the country has because the ICJ will limit itself to settle the dispute as the countries have defined it.

Furthermore, Brabandere says that he would not even advise that claims be specified in special agreements because then the countries limit themselves to having only one claim and settling that one while others may arise in the future. Therefore, with Belize and Guatemala agreeing to settle ‘Any’ and ‘ALL’ claims as stated in the Special Agreement, the countries would have to accept the ICJ’s ruling to the final judgement given on any claim Guatemala may have on Belize.

Dr. Pinzauti explained to us that when the two countries submit their application with all the specifications to the courts, that is what the court will decide on. This means that Belizeans will know exactly what portion of Belize, Guatemala is claiming until after the submission of documents happens at the court.

BBN notes that the Guatemalan government has not identified the exact specifications of its claim and throughout the years, the claim has varied from portions of the nation. While it is widely assumed that Guatemala will claim a large portion of Belize’s territory, Belize can only know the exact amount after Guatemala files its application at the ICJ.


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