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EDITORIAL – July 20th. 2018

July 20
09:37 2018

The Guatemalan claim to lands in southern Belize is based solely on the doctrine of uti possidetis. This is a doctrine developed among the nations of the Americas which were former colonies of Spain.

It says that lands in the Americas owned by Spain at the time of independence (1821) now belong to those new nations that were former colonies. Ownership is elsewhere described as occupation, prescription or cession.

If Guatemala fails in her claim to uti possidetis she must fail absolutely because there is no other legal ground on which she can succeed. Lauterpacht et al have shown that Belize was outside the circle of former Spanish colonies, and that at the time (1821) Spain was not in possession of the lands in question. Guatemala did not inherit any land in the Settlement of the Baymen because Spain no longer possessed any of it.

Guatemala later acknowledged this in the Boundary Treaty of 1859 and in the Exchange of Notes establishing the limits of Guatemalan territory in the east in 1931. Since then there have been no less than six resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly. All of them call for the inalienable right of the people of Belize to self-determination and independence and for the inviolability and territorial integrity of Belize.

Resolution 3432 of 1975 requires that any resolution of the problem between Guatemala and the UK be made while preserving the independence and territorial integrity of Belize.

Resolutions #31/50 of 1976, #32/32 of 1977, #33/66 of 1978, #34/38 of 1979 and #35/20 of 1980 all say in essence the same thing with one notable addition.

Paragraph 7 of the 1980 resolution requires “the relevant organs of the United Nations to take such action as may be appropriate and as may be requested by the administering power and the government of Belize in order to facilitate the attainment of independence by Belize and to guarantee its security and territorial integrity thereafter.”
This editorial has no need to point out that the International Court of Justice is a “relevant organ” of the United Nations.

While we expect the ICJ to carry out its functions in strict accordance with international law, we also expect that in doing so it will also heed the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and preserve the inalienable right of Belizeans to independence, social and cultural identity, and territorial integrity.”

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