BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 3, 2019– The Belize Peace Movement (BPM) held a press briefing this morning at the Belize Institute of Management (BIM) headquarters to update the media on its “No to the ICJ” campaign. The briefing got underway after the singing of the Belize National Anthem and a prayer.
The BPM national coordinator, Robert “Bobby” Lopez, after thanking a number of individuals who spoke at the organization’s various education campaigns, said that Belize is now 98 days away from the ICJ referendum date on April 10.
The BPM then proceeded to call out the Opposition, People’s United Party, for not having an official position on the issue since the signing of the Special Agreement (compromis) between Belize and Guatemala in December 2008.
The BPM informed that it has been getting legal advice from local sources and that there are several legal and constitutional issues having to do with the compromis. The organization is thus planning to launch a legal challenge, although they have not yet outlined a timetable for doing so.
At the beginning of the press briefing, Lopez read a statement that the BPM called “Undue Influence of Celebrity.” This has to do with the installation around the country of billboards featuring the pictures of various well-known/high-profile individuals who support going to the ICJ to address Guatemala’s territorial claim. Lopez said the Belize Peace Movement challenges the placement of the billboards because celebrity status carries with it a social responsibility, and these “celebrities” are preying on the ignorance of Belizeans.
Lopez explained that their research has uncovered several legal areas of constitutional concerns regarding the Special Agreement.
He said that the Belize Peace Movement wrote the Belize Bar Association, but did not get anywhere with that, but now they have been getting local legal advice on the Special Agreement.
The first presenter at the press briefing was Patrick Rogers, who is also the leader of the Belize Progressive Party (BPP).
Rogers is of the view that Belize has to get Great Britain (our former colonial master) to the ICJ. He premised his presentation on three points that Belize will use as its defense at the ICJ, providing that the referendum yields a yes vote on April 10. “Without knowing what Guatemala will present, we already have our ‘air-tight case,” Rogers said, “and it’s based on Acquisitive Prescription (for which we will use the 1859 Boundary Treaty to validate our claim); the Historical Consolidation Treaty, and finally, self-determination, which was mandated by the United Nations.”
Rogers explained that we should get England to the table at the ICJ with us, because it is that country that is in breach of the 1859 treaty with the Guatemalans.
Rogers pointed to a 1992 document signed between Belize and Guatemala which expressly stated that Belize and Guatemala have not signed a treaty recognizing the borders between the two countries. He said that the 2005 Confidence Building Measures stated that we have to go to court to settle the dispute with Guatemala. Rogers said that the “iron-clad case” that key Belize leaders talk about, has unfulfilled clauses in the 1859 treaty.
“Once it is recognized that Guatemala has some compensatory right to Belize, then the ICJ can vary the borders,” Rogers explained.
Paco Smith called Prime Minister Barrow’s statement in his New Year’s Message about Belize’s chance of winning at the ICJ, myopic. “His [Barrow’s] message was typical; it downplayed the litigation risk,” Smith pointed out.
During the question and answer period, the BPM was asked about its stated strategy position that it would approach the PUP for a meeting.
Lopez said that the BPM has made several attempts to engage with the PUP, but to no avail.
“We’ve reached out to the People’s United Party and we understand that after a Northern Caucus meeting, they were to get back to us, but up to this date, we have not been able to meet with them. So we have to call them out, because it is unacceptable,” Lopez said.