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Friday, December 6, 2019
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ICJ quiz

It is now about 21 days before Belizean voters will have their historic appointment with destiny in the upcoming referendum. Those who have been able to register but have decided not to participate can only blame themselves if the referendum result initiates a sequence of inexorable calamities for Belize, its present inhabitants and their descendants. So if you are one of those registered persons who are aware of this possibility and more pointedly the fact that one single vote can change our future, but is still content with your choice not to vote — just continue to enjoy your insouciance, perhaps lady luck will smile on you and others will make the correct existential decision for your country. Thus if you are satisfied with whatever the consequences of your non-participation may be, then there is really no need for you to take this quiz.

On the other hand, if you are among those patriotic and concerned persons who have decided to vote and whose mind remains open to  persuasion by facts and logic, then my hope is that taking this quiz will assist you in making a rational referendum decision. Nevertheless, whatever your present position may be, the objective of this quiz is for you to determine if you are factually and sufficiently informed to make the best choice on the tenth day of April 2019. So let us begin.

This quiz consists of a set of twenty statements that are designed to elicit critical thinking on the most momentous decision you will probably ever be faced with and to factually inform you on important ICJ referendum issues that you might not know or on which you may have been misinformed by the increasingly intense Government’s propaganda campaign. You may need a pen or pencil to record your answers.

Instructions: Simply read and carefully consider the following statements. Check what you sincerely believe is the correct response and then read the factual and unbiased answers that follow each statement.

1. There is really no need to partake in the upcoming referendum since we already know where our borders are and that we are the legitimate owners of Belize.

Answer: This was probably true before our Government signed the Confidence- Building Measures and Special Agreement Treaty which presently invalidates our borders with Guatemala and commits us to roll the loaded OAS engineered dice for our territorial integrity and sovereignty at the ICJ. The referendum ahead is the trigger mechanism which, if a “Yes” vote prevails, will irrevocably implement execution of this Special Agreement Treaty. Since the Government also removed the validity threshold from the referendum law, if you decide not to vote on referendum day because you do not want to gamble half of your country at the ICJ casino, but equal numbers voted “Yes” and  voted “No”, your single vote can decide the outcome, regardless of how many persons already voted.

Additionally the Government in power has unjustifiably engaged all the authority and resources of the state at its disposal in addition to its formidable and well-financed political election machinery to elicit a “Yes to the ICJ” referendum vote. This is being done in concert with colossal external forces inimical to the continued existence of our country.  So if you are not convinced that we must now urgently gamble away our patrimony at the ICJ then you should realize that not voting will be equivalent to voting “Yes”. In view of these facts the correct answer is “False”.

2. Guatemala wants to go to the International Court of Justice so that the Territorial Differendum with Belize can finally be resolved.

Answer: While it is true that they have always wanted a final resolution that favors their claim, the record shows that they had steadfastly refused to adjudicate on a legal basis using the1859 treaty as the court’s terms of reference. Their negotiators knew that the British were their diplomatic superiors and that they would not have been able to gain any significant legal advantage against them under the 1859 treaty. They surmised that any juridical settlement they pursued using the 1859 boundary treaty as the court’s terms of reference would most likely have resulted in a loss for them.

So they and their astute international allies bided their time until Belize joined the negotiations and they were able to gain a significant strategic advantage by incrementally forcing their insidious agenda on our outclassed Belizean negotiators. With the assistance of their formidable friends they are now ready to pursue a legal solution using the 2008 Special Agreement boundary treaty (drafted by the OAS) as the court’s terms of reference instead of the original 1859 Treaty that the Brits had successfully used to vitiate their claim.

They are now convinced that having outwitted the Belizeans into concluding a new cleverly crafted boundary treaty that replaces the older 1859 treaty, they are now poised to succeed and will finally achieve their long sought after objective of annexing most if not all of their illegally occupied departamento de Belice. The correct answer is therefore “True”.

3. The 1859 boundary treaty is our ironclad title to all the territory we presently occupy.

Answer: The 1859 treaty only defines our territory as far North as the Agua Turbias (Latitude 17° 49’ North) monument. The remaining 25% is defined by the Mariscal-Spencer Treaty between Mexico and England, signed 34 years later.

Additionally the several articles of the 1859 treaty requiring the demarcation of our boundaries with Guatemala were at best only partially complied with. This raises serious questions on the legal validity of our claim to historical consolidation— not to mention the non-compliance with Article 7.

This statement is clearly not true, but even if it were it still fails to provide us title, since the immovable boundaries that had been established by the 1859 treaty have been rendered movable by the actions of successive Belizean governments in at least four separate instances, culminating with the 2008 Special Agreement Treaty which supersedes the 1859 treaty and invalidates our former immoveable boundaries with Guatemala. The correct answer is therefore “False”.

4. The judgement of the International Court of Justice will result in a definitive end to the Guatemalan Claim to Belizean territory.

Answer: If the court rules in favor of Guatemala and they are satisfied with their subsequent award of Belizean territory and corresponding rights over our sovereignty then the answer is true, because Belize will have no option but to cry, lick its wounds and abide by the court’s decision.

 However, if on the other hand, Guatemala is not satisfied with the court’s decision they may well choose to ignore it and continue with their claim as enshrined in their constitution. Why? Consider this.

They have ignored, with impunity derived from the acquiescence of the OAS and our disingenuous “friends” who in reality run things on the international plane, the confidence- building measures as evinced by their military occupation of the Sarstoon. They moved their embassy to Jerusalem in defiance of the United Nations, disrespected the UN resolutions on our territorial integrity, and more recently expelled the United Nations anti-corruption personnel after having endorsed the anti-corruption measures.

It is therefore clear that the dispute may or may not end, depending on what Guatemala is awarded. Since only the ICJ judges can decide what Guatemala may get, the correct answer is therefore we “don’t know”.

5. If Belize receives a favorable judgement at the ICJ, Guatemala will be obliged to respect our borders and discontinue their military occupation of the Sarstoon and their illegal incursions along our Western border— otherwise the United Nations Security Council will force them to comply.

Answer: Ever since the British relinquished responsibility to Belize for patrolling the border and keeping it clear our successive Governments have failed to do so. Therefore our Western border and the physical markers erected have all but disappeared into the jungle. This has encouraged Guatemalans seeking a better living to enter Belize illegally by rightly claiming that they do not know where the border is located. This will always continue and even escalate as the population of Petén continues to explode. The only thing that may halt these incursions is an executive decision to clear and patrol the border once more.

Also the only arm of the United Nations that can enforce the judgements of the ICJ is the Security Council. The composition of this organ of the UN includes five permanent member countries, all of which have the power to prevent the enforcement of any ICJ judgement by simply exercising their veto. Of those five, there are three that we know of who definitely favor Guatemala over Belize. These are the United States, Great Britain and mainland China— since unlike Guatemala, we have supported Taiwan in preference to mainland China. If any one of these countries decides to exercise its veto, the Security Council will be powerless to enforce any UN resolution to force Guatemala to comply with the court’s decision. The correct answer is therefore we “don’t know”.

6. The 2008 Special Agreement (Compromis) is simply an agreement to take to court and not a treaty, but even if it were a treaty it cannot be accorded the significance of the 1859 treaty by the court since it has not been ratified.

Answer: The Special Agreement satisfies all the legal requirements of a treaty and is in truth a new boundary treaty between Belize and Guatemala. In fact it is the very treaty mentioned in the 1992 joint statement in which both countries (Guatemala and Belize) had stated their desire to conclude since none existed between the independent states of Belize and Guatemala. Can we pursue the same logic to conclude that we will soon be making a new boundary treaty with Mexico?

This Special Agreement treaty has been properly endorsed by both countries, ratified by the Guatemalan Congress and duly registered at the United Nations. Also, in accordance with the relevant provision of our constitution it was lawfully ratified in 2015 by the Senate. If still in doubt, ask the Referendum Unit. The correct answer is therefore “False”.

7. We are going to court to have the Judges determine that our borders with Guatemala as defined and established by the 1859 treaty are legally valid so that Guatemala will be forced to drop their unfounded claim.

Answer: The sad truth is that if the Government achieves its objective we are going to court to have the judges enforce any and all legal claims of Guatemala against Belizean territory and to accordingly define our borders with Guatemala. So if the ICJ upholds any of Guatemala’s claims they will then exercise the power given them under Article 2 of the Special Agreement boundary treaty and permanently alter our “undefined” borders  so that Guatemala will legally annex the portion of our territory they consider their just entitlement. Also, they will then award them any rights over our sovereignty that they find appropriate. The correct answer is therefore “False”.

8. The ICJ judges will simply be obliged to confirm the legal validity of our boundaries established by the 1859 treaty and the 1931 exchange of notes as defined in our 1981 constitution. This has to be so since a boundary once established by treaty cannot be changed and has never been changed by the ICJ.

Answer: The ICJ judges will be forced to consider not only the now defunct 1859 boundary treaty, but more importantly the new 2008 Special Agreement boundary treaty which contains their terms of reference. In a case where there are two successive boundary treaties they will apply Articles 30 and 59 of the Vienna Convention on the Law Treaties. Accordingly the more recent 2008 Special Agreement boundary treaty will supersede the older 1859 boundary treaty such that the immovable boundaries that had been established by the 1859 treaty will be replaced by boundaries that can be altered at the court’s discretion.

Therefore our existing boundaries will be confirmed only if the court finds all of Guatemala’s claims to be illegal. No one except the Judges can decide this. And those who are telling you that there is no claim the court will entertain that may warrant them altering our borders are obviously misinforming you, since none of them even know what  Guatemala’s claims will  be much less what the judges may decide. The correct answer is therefore “False”.

9. Since under the Special Agreement Treaty the court will be obliged to evaluate all of Guatemala’s claims on a strictly legal basis using Article 38(1) of the court’s statute there is no claim that Guatemala can make that the court will uphold under this Article. Furthermore the integrity of the ICJ judges is impeccable and above reproach.

Answer: There is one claim Guatemala can make that will most likely withstand legal scrutiny. They had even received a legal opinion from an eminent international jurist to that effect. This is their breach of agreement claim against the British. This claim will almost certainly be upheld under Item B, “the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations”, of Article 38{1} of the ICJ statute.

Also even though Article 38(2) that deals with fairness and equity cannot be applied, Guatemala had desired a form of equity called infra legume that complements the application of Article 38(1) that is used by the ICJ. Taken together, this may well result in a valid legal claim being upheld by the court. And who knows what other claims they may make that the court might uphold?

Interestingly, the integrity of the ICJ judges has been recently questioned, as some have been found moonlighting on the job. Political interferences have also been cited by one judge who recently resigned from a similar organ of the United Nations. The correct answer is therefore we “don’t know”.

To be continued


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