BELIZE CITY, Fri. June 7, 2019– The nation state of Belize continued along the path of going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when today it formally submitted its notification of going to the court by means of diplomatic hand delivery, at the court’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands.
Belize’s Ambassador to Belgium, H.E. Ambassador Dylan Vernon, delivered the notification papers, which were signed by Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington.
Voters in last month’s ICJ referendum voted “yes” on the question of whether to submit to the ICJ what was once referred to as Guatemala’s” unfounded claim,’ but which became a legal Claim in 2008 when the Dean Barrow-led United Democratic Party (UDP) government signed the Special Agreement with the Republic of Guatemala for taking “any and all of Guatemala’s legal claim” to the ICJ for a final, binding settlement.
Following the voters’ decision to take the claim to court, the Barrow government convened parliament and amended the Maritime Areas Act, which it said it was doing based on the advice of its international legal team.
The government also moved swiftly to re-establish the once fractured bipartisan relationship with the Opposition People’s United Party, which named a two-person team to an ICJ bi-partisan commission.
Once the referendum was held, the government had a period of exactly one month within which to notify the ICJ. That one- month deadline is tomorrow, Saturday, June 8, so today, in a press release, the government announced, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces that notification of the Special Agreement between Belize and Guatemala to submit Guatemala’s territorial, insular and maritime claim to the International Court of Justice of 2008, along with its Protocol of 2015, was deposited to the Registrar of the Court in The Hague, Netherlands, today June 7, 2019.”
The press release went on to make reference to Article 8 of the Special Agreement which “provides that the Registrar of the Court shall be notified of the Special Agreement jointly or by either of the Parties within a month after the referendum in each country has approved submission of the dispute to the ICJ.”
The release added that Guatemala notified the ICJ after its successful referendum in April, 2018. “Belize’s notification, thereafter, perfects the consent of both parties to the jurisdiction of the Court to determine Guatemala’s legal claims in accordance with Article 2 of the Special Agreement,” says the release.
“Belize’s notification today activates the written procedure under the Special Agreement, which provides that Guatemala shall present its memorial (claim) within one year of the date on which the Special Agreement was notified to the Court. It is expected, therefore, that Guatemala will submit its claim no later than June 7, 2020. After receiving Guatemala’s memorial, Belize will have one year to respond,” the release further says.