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GOB retains three law firms for ICJ challenge

Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2019. 10:36 am CST.

By Aaron Humes:  “A tidy sum” will be going to three international law firms who will represent Belize at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, responding to Guatemala’s claim for land, maritime and insular territories before the court.

Speaking last Thursday at the post-referendum press conference in Belize City, the Prime Minister named two of the firms, both based in the United Kingdom,  Essex Chambers, led by the late Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, who co-wrote the 2001 Joint Opinion on the Guatemalan Claim, and Freshfields as a “coordinating firm.”

The Prime Minister was responding to a question about how much the Government – and by extension, taxpayers – will pay for legal services. The figure, he said, is very much unknown at this time as the billing rate is hourly and “it’s hard to know beforehand how many hours will be billed or how many hours they will work.”

Former Ambassador Assad Shoman and Ambassador to Guatemala Alexis Rosado will be the point men for Belize on the ICJ case and once Belize has cleared the hurdle of amending the Maritime Areas Act and officially notifying the Hague of its intention to join the case, “The clock, I can’t say starts running, starts running at an even faster pace in terms of the billing of these law firms.  Even then though, I expect extremely difficult to calculate a figure because there is so much that’s unknown,” Barrow explained.

Guatemala, said Barrow, will have at least a year in the first instance to submit its initial statement, but savings could be realized if they move faster, say in six months; but that timetable is not established.

The case is expected to take up to five years to decide.


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