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Belize receives Guatemala’s memorial for territorial, insular and maritime claim to Belize’s territory

Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2020. 6:49 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed today that it received Guatemala’s Memorial in relation to Guatemala’s territorial, insular and maritime claim to Belizean territory.


Guatemala filed the memorial at the International Court of Justice, in accordance with the Court’s order of 22 April 2020 extending the date for such submission following Guatemala’s request for extension, citing delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  


The  Ministry noted that Guatemalan memorial states what Guatemala is claiming in terms of continental land, islands and seas, and the legal grounds for such claims. It consists of one volume of 500 pages, 462 Annexes, 8 Maps and 24 Figures.  


The ICJ rules do not allow Belize to disclose Guatemala’s pleadings, and Belize is obliged to abide by these rules. (Article 53(2))   


“At the same time, the Ministry is aware that all Belizeans are rightly anxious to know what Guatemala is claiming, since it has made varying claims to different parts of Belize’s territory over the years. While at times it has laid claim to all of Belizean territory, at others it has limited itself to claiming a part, albeit a substantial part,” the Ministry noted.


The Ministry explained that the most explicit formulation of the claim made in modern times was that contained in a letter from Guatemala’s Foreign Minister addressed to Belize’s Prime Minister on 18 October 1999 (attached) in which, although the claim to other parts of the territory was not expressly abandoned, Guatemala declared that the territory between the rivers Sibun and Sarstoon should “revert” to Guatemala, being an integral part of the Verapaz province. The letter also protested the “de facto occupation of the islands adjacent to Belize.” Guatemalan governments since then have tended to follow the line laid down in that letter and have refrained from claiming the entire territory.  


The Ministry also revealed that while it is constrained in what it can say, it can confirm that the memorial presented no surprises, and no new claims that are different from those documented


The Court’s order of 22 April 2020 also extended until 8 June 2022 the time for the filing of Belize’s Counter-Memorial.


The Ministry assures all Belizeans that the Belize Office of the Agent to the ICJ, in collaboration with the international team of experts, is already at work in preparing Belize’s Counter Memorial which will resolutely reject Guatemala’s Claim and strongly assert Belize’s claim to all its territory, islands and seas in accordance with international law.  


The Ministry says that maintaining absolute respect for the Court and its esteemed Judges, Belize remains confident of its sovereignty over all the territory we succeeded to from the United Kingdom at independence on 21 September 1981 and over all the maritime areas to which we are entitled by the law of the sea.


“Belizeans can be secure in the knowledge that our rights and interests are well preserved by our local and international teams of experts and with confidence in the justice dispensed by the ICJ that it has demonstrated in years of adjudicating territorial disputes,” the Ministry expressed.


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