The claim by Guatemala against Belize was due in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on June 8, 2020. Their deadline, however, has been drawn out after they submitted a request for a 12-month extension. Guatemala made their submission on April 8, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the basis for their request. The ICJ reached out to Belize’s agents for their input but Belize would only agree to a 2-month extension. In the end, the ICJ made its decision and informed Guatemala that they now have until December 8, 2020 to make their official claim. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington spoke on the issue over the weekend.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “The Guatemalan Foreign Minister the new one called me for the first time, I’ve had two calls from him so far but he called me for the first time two weeks ago I spoke with him and he informed me that they made an application formally at the ICJ for an extension of time to put in their memorial; they were supposed to put it in in June I think but they’re finding difficulty so they told me they were requesting an extension for one year. Of course we have our own legal advisors who handle this matter the agent for us is Assad Shoman and Alexis Rosado they in fact have gotten information passed it on to our legal advisor. The matter was heard it was a a formal application to the court that formal application was in fact made and the last information I received was that the court granted them an extension of the time to file their memorial but up to the 8th of December. So they have up until the 8th of December to file their memorial and then we will have until 2022 to file our response.”
Troy Gabb, Host, The Morning Show: “So technically they have gotten a six month extension.”
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “Yeah, technically they got a six month extension. I must say to you that as you know, people who have familiarity with the courts, that is not unusual it’s not unusual for applications to be made for an extension of time to file documents so that was done, handled by our attorney and our agents and the court granted them up until the 8th.”
Troy Gabb, Host, The Morning Show: “Is there reasoning primarily maybe as a result of the COVID-19 ?”
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “That’s what the Foreign Minister said to me because of the COVID-19 problem the people who are doing the research are not able to move around to get to the archives where the materials are to help them to prepare their memorial that was the explanation given to me.”
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.