Late last week Professor Stephen Vasciannie, a former University of West Indies Law Professor handed the Bar Association of Belize his legal opinion on the Belize case which the Government intends to forward to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Though the Bar had published the document online, the leaders are still preparing their statements on Vasciannie’s findings. Love News spoke to proponents and opponents of the ICJ about the 52 pages that comprise Vasciannie’s legal opinion .
Jose Sanchez: “Stephen Vasciannie the former Law school professor penned a legal opinion for the Bar Association of Belize. His findings are being quoted of both advocates and opponents of the ICJ. Former Foreign Minister Lisa Shoman says the legal opinion shows that Belize has a strong case to further to the court.”
Attorney Lisa Shoman: “What he says absolutely bolsters the idea that by almost every measure you look at we have an extremely strong case. Now Professor Vasciannie is the foremost legal expert on International Law in the Caribbean so we have gotten this opinion from one of our own so to speak at the very highest level and he speaks in glowing terms of the magnificent four: of Lotopack, Rosen, Orrego Vicuña and Schwebel and says that we have a legal opinion from a very important and well respected people and that this in fact the opinion of these international jurists, is in fact one of the things the court will take into account. He says number one: treaty, two principles of international law, customs, writings of eminent jurists and also to an extent that although the court does not strictly go by president they do regard as persuasive and authoritative their own decisions that have been emitted so by any measure that you want to take it. The opinion of is an important and compelling support to the legal case of the Belize.”
Jose Sanchez: “The leader of the PUP Western Caucus Julius Espat differs and believes the risks are too strong for the country.”
Julius Espat Area Representative Cayo West: “It does not only show the positive aspect of going to court but it also highlighted the weaknesses and that is something that puts a dent into the government’s propaganda machine. In that everything they have been saying is based on an iron clad case and this gentleman is telling them, no here are weaknesses and one of the main one is Article 7 which he thinks we might be able to get out of but he is not sure. It is when somebody has made and agreement and has not fulfilled it. A second major concern he has is that we have to be organized as Belizean’s because we are dealing with documentation that is 300 years old and we are only 30 ad years old and so our defence is most than anything relying on what the British did. What they signed?, what they agreed on?, what they negotiated? and the time frame in which it was done.”
Jose Sanchez: “The referendum campaign continues and Ambassador Alexis Rosado Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala asserts that Professor Vasciannie’s approach was different from previous scholars however his conclusions mirrors the government’s position to forward the case to the ICJ.”
H.E. Alexis Rosado Belize Ambassador to Guatemala: “The latest legal opinion supports the view that Belize has nothing to lose when it comes to a full entitlement to our territory and also our boundaries that they will not be adjusted in any way. His conclusions are not surprising in that Belize has a strong case and at the same time he does address what some may consider possible weaknesses and even looking at those weaknesses he finds that the Belize’s case is strong so far as the boundaries of Belize would not change even if for example the court found that there was a breach of Article 7. Even if the court found that Guatemala was fully entitled to terminate the 1859 Treaty. His conclusion is that it would not have effect to the title that we enjoy over the entirety of our territory and it would not change the boundary of Belize.”
Julius Espat: “If we lose 5% then we have lost that court whilst Guatemala has absolutely nothing to lose and that is where I have a major problem.”
Jose Sanchez: “The best solution is for Belizean’s to go to the Bar Associations website and read the 52 pages or at least the short summary before making an informed decision. Jose Sanchez from Love News.”
The Bar Association says it will prepare to make its media rounds at an upcoming date. The referendum takes place on April 10.