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Countdown to Decision Day 2019! Yes or No to the ICJ?

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2019. 7:07 am CST.

By BBN Staff: With just 62 days away from decision day 2019, proponents of the ‘Yes’ to the ICJ and ‘No’ to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) camps have intensified their campaign to the Belizean people.

On April 10th, 2019, Belizeans will go to the polls to make a historic decision on whether or not Belize should go to the ICJ for 17 judges to determine a final solution to Guatemala’s long standing claim over Belize’s territory.

Towards the end of 2018, the Government of Belize (GoB) intensified its education awareness tour, hosting presentations throughout Belize in an effort to inform the public. The GoB’s campaign is primarily aimed at securing a ‘Yes’ vote.

The Citizens for Defense and Sovereignty (CDS), formed recently and headed by Ambassador Assad Shoman is actively promoting a ‘Yes’ vote, while the Belize Peace Movement (BPM) is pushing for a ‘No’ vote. Both the GoB and CDS argue that Belize’s case is an ‘iron clad’ one based on the 1859 treaty, the 1931 exchange of notes, the long standing jurisdiction and rule that Belize has had over its territory and the principle of self-determination. In addition, they argue that the ICJ has never gone against any border established in a treaty, and that even if the treaty is thrown out, the border component has a life of its own.

Over time the portion of Belize claimed by Guatemala has varied from the southernmost part of Belize, to only sea access, to possibly the entire country. To date, however, the Guatemalan government has not officially announced the exact portion of Belize that it will argue for at the ICJ. This has created some contention in the ‘No’ camp as they argue that we do not even know what portion of Belize the Guatemalan government will argue for at the ICJ.

In November 2018, a number of prominent former Guatemalan officials as well as members of the business sector in Guatemala told the Belizean media that Guatemala wishes only to define its border with Belize for certainty. They argued that this is necessary to facilitate better trade and business partnerships.

Pablo Hurtado, from the Investigation and Social Studies Association in Guatemala, told BBN that Guatemala wants to find a peaceful solution to the claim and expand more financial and tourism opportunities with Belize.

But what happens if Belizeans vote ‘No’ in the upcoming April 10 referendum?

Hurtado says that he feels a ‘No’ vote in Belize would be good for Guatemala, “ I have to say that if Belize votes ‘No’, it would put Guatemala in a really good position because we have had our referendum, and we said yes, we are willing to find a peaceful solution to this claim. The international community recognizes then that we are willing to go to the court and settle the matter.”

On April 15, 2018, 26% of the Guatemalan electorate voted in their national referendum of which 96% voted ‘Yes’ for the claim to be taken to the ICJ for a final resolution.

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