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Dylan Vernon in Belize for ICJ campaign

Dylan Vernon, Belize’s Ambassador to Belgium is in Belize to contribute to the campaign on the upcoming referendum.  This morning he was a guest on The Morning Show where he simplified and discussed several aspects of the Belize/Guatemala issue including the failed negotiations that led to the Special Agreement.

Dylan Vernon Belize’s Ambassador to Belgium: “There have been many attempts to get Guatemala to drop its claim, we tried mediation, the Webster proposals, we tried countless negotiations over time and we also tried facilitation through the region organization the OAS and all these attempts have been failures and they have been failures why because Guatemala insisted on getting territory or rights that Belizeans could never ever agree to and the last wo attempts that we had were failed attempts that we know were it the 2002 period when the facilitators agreement was presented and Guatemala eventually not following through in erecting them, that was the last one and this where we come to the Special Agreement and now in 2005 to 2007 again the OAS had facilitated that the negotiation and the other side would ensure that we had gone into those last negotiations with the understanding that if they failed that the Secretary General role of the OAS could and I stress the word could refer the claim to the ICJ. The Secretary General of the OAS did just that on the 19th of November 2007 and there after both Belize and Guatemala accepted the recommendation.

Once the Special Agreement was signed, the discussions began on the road to the International Court of Justice.  Ambassador Vernon explained the process on the way to and at the court.

Dylan Vernon Belize’s Ambassador to Belgium: The two countries signed the Special Agreement on the 8th of December 2008 and so then and very briefly that is what was in the Special Agreement. It’s also called the Compremis you might have been hearing this term before but it’s basically a French Word meaning agreement  and the agreement has a preamble. It has 9 articles, it states that the agreement must be adopted by referenda in both countries. It states the question to be asked from both of the courts if we get there and the question that would be asked in the referendum and it also lays out the process the case would take if it gets to the ICJ. Now the protocol signed to the Special Agreement later happened in 2015 basically to say that Referana did not have to happen on the same day. That was the key thing in the protocol and this was because having it on the same date was not possible to do and so we move on to saying let us do it on separate days so Guatemala has held its referendum on the 15th of April, they voted yes and now in a sense the ball is in our court and the rest of the Special Agreement then lays out the the question of the process that would be taken if we get to the ICJ.

Ambassador Vernon went to speak of what can be expected at the ICJ should Belize agree to take the matter there.

Dylan Vernon Belize’s Ambassador to Belgium: “This is what basically if we get to the ICJ what the Court will be looking at and we know that article 38 1 of the statute of the ICJ lays out what sort of approach the Court would take to make the judgment and the term in the question of applicable rules of the international law and any other or all legal claims are extremely important there because you can go to the Court as Guatemala has wanted to do on another set of rules. The ex aqua et bono which is basically fairness on traditions and equity sort of issues and I belvie Belize would never go on those issues. We would only go if we do on legal matters and so the article 38 of the statute would list the sort of areas that the court would look at such as: International Conventions, International Customary Law, General Principles of International Law and of course any president that the court might have. What then would be the process of the case if Belizeans vote yes to go to the ICJ if done that Article 3 provides for two stages: a stage of written arguments and pleadings and a stage of oral hearings and the written pleading part of that would be Guatemala going first and then twelve months after their case is registered at the ICJ which should be one month off Belize’s referendum if there is a yes vote. After that Guatemala will have 12 months to prepare and send to the Court and Belize has it’s written claim, they are the claimant and so they will go first and then there after Belize will have 12 months to respond. Guatemala will have six months to do a sort of counter argument and then Belize will have six months to do the same. Thereafter the court can agree to additional pleadings and time before the oral hearings begin so this would be a four or five year process but a process that has been agreed in the Special Agreement and perhaps to begin to close of your presentation part for your questions. I should say that Article 5 of the Special Agreement has the very important agreement that the parties of Belize and Guatemala shall accept the decision of the court as final and binding and undertake to comply with and implement it in full and good faith. This is directly coming from article 5 and a lot of Belizeans have been asking about implementation if there is an ICJ ruling as we expect if we get there for Belize. The parties agreed that within three months of the judgment of the court they will agree on the composition and the terms of reference of a bi national commission to carry out the demarcation of the boundaries in accordance of course with what the Court decides.

The OAS Secretary General had made the recommendation to both Belize and Guatemala to take the matter to the ICJ on November 19, 2007.//////