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Belize applies for ICJ to resolve Honduras’ Sapodilla Cayes claim

HeadlineBelize applies for ICJ to resolve Honduras’ Sapodilla Cayes claim

by Khaila Gentle

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 17, 2022

A press release issued by the Government late this evening announced that Belize has submitted an application for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue a judgment on Honduras’ claim (embedded in Article 10 of its Constitution) that the Sapodilla Cayes are part of its territory. The release notes that the application was submitted to the Registrar of the ICJ, located in The Hague, Netherlands, and that by means of the application, Belize is seeking a “final and binding resolution” to the matter.

The Government claims that it has taken this measure to “protect the vital interests of Belize” by ensuring that all territorial disputes are fully settled. The press release also states that the application to the ICJ has been done in full support and furtherance of its friendly relations with Honduras.

The application and all its associated documents can be found on the ICJ’s website under “cases”. It is listed as pending and was filed on Wednesday, November 16. Included in the eleven-page document is a section stating that Belize officially acceded to the Pact of Bogotá on October 24, 2022 by submitting an instrument of accession to the Organization of American States (OAS) and that the General Secretariat of the OAS issued a certificate of receipt of that instrument dated October 27.

In its application to the ICJ, Belize notes that the Sapodilla Cayes, located 75 miles east of Punta Gorda, have been a part of Belize’s territory since the early nineteenth century, initially as part of the settlement of Belize and later the colony of British Honduras, and since 1981 as part of the independent State of Belize.

It also states that sovereignty over the Cayes has been peacefully, publicly, and continuously manifested through a number of acts, including the exercising of jurisdiction by magistrates over the Cayes (such as in relation to criminal matters, salvage claims and the suppression of piracy); the construction of lighthouses; the granting of licenses and concessions in relation to natural resources; the regulation of land ownership, fishing, and entry to the Sapodilla Cayes; and the conducting of military activities in and around the Cayes.

By contrast, it further notes, Honduras has never had nor purported to exercise any sovereignty over the Cayes, and, prior to 1981, it repeatedly acknowledged British sovereignty.

In one such instance, the Government of Honduras, concerned that the Cayes were being used as a base by revolutionary movements plotting against it, requested British authorities in Belize to take action in respect to those movements.

The Government has appointed Ambassador Assad Shoman as Agent and Ambassador Alexis Rosado as Co-Agent for Belize in the proceedings.

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