Earlier this week we reported on the decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) granting a 6-month extension to Guatemala for them to submit their claim on Belize. Guatemala had officially requested a one-year extension, but Belize objected and said that they would only accept a 2-month extension. In the end, the court ruled for a 6-month extension. The Belize Territorial Volunteers issued a release earlier today saying that the Government has failed the Belizean people in several ways on this issue. BTV’s Director, Wil Maheia spoke to Love News.
Will Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers: “We are very disappointed that the ICJ has decided to grant Guatemala a six month extension and also we know that Belize objected when Guatemala made it’s request but in the end they still accepted , they recommended two months and then the ICJ decided it’s six months. So right then and there you could see neither Guatemala nor Belize got their satisfaction it’s the ICJ that go their satisfaction and the same thing could happen when there is this court case and there’s a judgment Guatemala could say they want from the Sibun to the Sarstoon and Belize could object and the court could say “Okay we’ll give them from Monkey River to the Sarstoon.” so nobody really happy with the decision but in the end Guatemala still win that is our point that we continue to appease Guatemala. I mean I think when the ICJ said “No we will give them six months.” we should call our friends in the Commonwealth to object to that. We cannot continue to be bullied in my opinion by the ICJ and Guatemala. I believe that the government should have been more adamant about us using the Sarstoon free our side of the Sarstoon without interference from Guatemala and they said when the case was going to the ICJ the Prime Minister had said “Okay they’ll definitely ensure that during this time that Belizean will be able to go freely up the Sarstoon without interference from Guatemala at least on our side of the river.” that hasn’t gone.”
Maheia went on to speak on the incursions by Guatemalans particularly at the Sarstoon. He noted that even after both countries agreed to go to the International Court of Justice, the Guatemalans continued to cross over illegally and engage in farming and fishing in Belize’s territory.
Will Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteers: “After it was agreed that we would be going to the ICJ Guatemala continued to dominate the river and that’s our problem the Prime Minister had said once it goes to the court that Guatemala would not be intimidating us or harassing us on the river. Well I haven’t been on the river recently because of the whole COVID-19 thing but before that whenever you go up the river the Guatemalans would still follow you and they would still harass you and still tell you that the river belongs to them and that’s our bone of contention we cannot continue with this when we go to the court. It’s not too late for our government to appeal to all the member nations of the Commonwealth and to the United Nations and to the so called friends of Belize to say “Hey Guatemala had a hundred years to prepare their case why is it that we have to grant them this extension?” They had a hundred years so this claim is like a hundred years old so there’s no need for Guatemala to get an extension and I think that we should still file objections to the ICJ giving Guatemala another six months to do so. I mean right now as it stands right now it will be 2022 before anything definitive happens so I just think we need to really be vigilant and we need to ensure that we Belizeans could traverse our side of that Sarstoon River without being harassed.”
In addition, the BTV noted, quote, “The BTV further wishes to call the attention of Belizeans to the glaring failure of the Belize government to submit an application to the ICJ, as promised by our Prime Minister, calling on the ICJ to Order Guatemala to remove its military from Belize’s portion of the Sarstoon River. And a further Order that Guatemala is to refrain from any further violation of Belize’s sovereignty over the Sarstoon Island as stated in the internationally recognized Treaty of 1859.” End of quote. Belize’s Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte was asked to comment on the decision of the ICJ but all he said was, “it is what it is”.
Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General: “It is what it is the court has granted the extension so we will leave it at that. I generally do not speak about matters in process in court, this is the most important court matter this country has ever had and I will not start with this one. So the court has made the decision to grant the extension that’s it.”
To date, it is uncertain how much territory and maritime area the Guatemalans are claiming. A definitive area will be known once they submit their claim. Once submitted, Belize will have up until June 8, 2022 to present a counterclaim.