Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2019. 9:20 pm CST.
(Photo Credit: Cultural Survival Magazine)
By Aaron Humes: Four and a half years on from its historic first session in the same courtroom in April of 2015, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) returned for an itinerant session at the Supreme Court of Belize.
Both sessions concerned the same case – BZCV2014/002- Maya Leaders Alliance and 23 other Villages v The Attorney General of Belize, an appeal of a decision of the high court and Court of Appeal which found that the rights of the indigenous Maya people of southern Belize to ‘use and enjoyment’ of land communally shall not be infringed, among other things.
Since the April 22, 2015 decision ended in a consent order between the Government and the Alliance, the CCJ has held multiple post-judgment sittings by videoconference from its headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Today’s sitting, open to the public, was another in a series of status update on the implementation of an agreement in which the Belizean government consented to develop a system to recognize the land rights of the indigenous Mayan people.
Speaking for the MLA, Cristina Coc told reporters afterward that today’s arguments centered on the development of a framework for dispute resolution, addressing what the Maya call “incursions” of the Government and non-Maya individuals such as concessions for (illegal) logging and exploration for petroleum, and sales of land to third parties and Government agencies.
Government, says Coc, has been dragging its feet on approving the appointment of Dean of the George Washington University Law School, Rosa Solario, as a mutually agreed authority to preside over dispute resolutions per the Consent Order. Paragraph four of that order states that the Maya are to be freely informed and consulted before any concessions are agreed, and none are to be approved without that consent and which will infringe on the use and enjoyment of communal lands in the 23 Maya villages.
Dean Solario, who replaced her colleague Professor Diana Shelton who had to back out due to health issues, has been approved by both sides following a meeting, but according to Coc, the email account agreed to be set up to send on complaints under the framework has not been established; neither has a clerk from the courts to collect and file claims and support review.
Three complaints have already been forwarded nonetheless, and Dean Solario, an expert on indigenous people’s rights and human rights standards, has indicated she is eager to start her work.
The Government established a Maya Land Rights Commission chaired by former Senator and Toledo native Lisel Alamilla but it has hardly been heard from after initial meetings with the Maya communities and other relevant stakeholders.
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