LOVE News continues a series of in-depth reports on the International Court of Justice from its headquarters at the Hague in the Netherlands. Love News’ Renee Trujillo reports on the education of the Belize media contingent which will help to inform the public when making their decision at next year’s referendum.
Rene Trujillo: “Belize and Guatemala are looking to go before the International Court of Justice ICJ to seek legal judgment on the Territorial and Maritime claim that Guatemala has laid against Belize. The Government of Belize is relying on Referendum on April 10th 2019 to see if the matter will reach the Court at the Hague in the Netherlands. Both countries are using the Special Agreement Mechanism to submit the case before the Court if the majority votes yes at the Referendum. The Special Agreement Mechanism is one of several ways in which cases can be brought before the Court: among them being the general consent, the Bilateral Treaty with a clause that surrenders disputes in that Treaty to the ICJ and then there’s the Ad Hoc Acquiescence In the last two days a Belizean Delegation of Reporters have been in the Hague meeting with Attorneys, Diplomats and Representatives who have dealt directly with the ICJ either administratively or in actual cases that made it to the Great Hall of Justice. All our meetings to date have been off the record but we have been able to ask many of the questions being imposed back in Belize regarding the ICJ, its functions and fairness. Today’s meeting was crucial as we were able to go inside the deliberation room referred to officially as the Red Room. That is where the 15 judges meet prior to going into the Courtroom called the Great Hall of Justice. Whilst in the Red Room the reporters learnt that the ICJ operates on a Horizontal Legal International structure which led to the principle that all states are equally sovereign and that they will only hear matters once the two states have consented, in other words they don’t play favorites and their rulings are based strictly on International Law and not the Domestic Laws of any of the States before the Courts. When it comes to the Special Agreement mentioned earlier there are two main components of that mechanism: one is to clearly define the dispute and to have the two states accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ and its ruling. It is in this agreement that Guatemala will lay out the Territorial and Maritime areas that they are seeking to gain from Belize. Interestingly Guatemala is now claiming at least 50% of Belize, a claim that is un presidented of the ICJ when it comes to the size of occupied territory being claimed. While the majority of cases heard at the ICJ are Territorial matters between countries none in recent memory matches the claim being made by Guatemala. Come next year if the majority of Belizean’s agree to go to the ICJ the application would then be filed to the Court with the option to have each state appoint a Judge of their own taking it from a 15 panel of Judges to 17. The process can take anywhere from 3-5 years at a cost to be boarded by each State for their Attorneys, Advocates and Administrative matters . The current panel of Judges is noted to be the most experienced and well respected Judges from around the world. Tomorrow on part 2 of Belize’s’ media to the ICJ we will look at the option of obtaining a legal opinion form the ICJ as well as the current docket. Reporting for Love News I am Rene Trujillo.”
The Referendum takes place on April 10th, 2019.