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Editorial – April 26th. 2019

Editorial – April 26th. 2019
April 26
14:40 2019

One of the first things the ICJ will consider when it takes up the Belize-Guatemala dispute is Guatemala’s claim to uti possidetis as inheritors of land once owned by Spain.

Guatemala has pinned all her hopes on this one principle of law. She has nothing else to depend on.

In order to clear the way for this principle to apply, Guatemala will first have to show that the 1859 Treaty is no longer valid. She also has to show that this treaty is not a boundary treaty, but merely an agreement to cede territory if certain conditions are met.

It is not enough for Guatemala to show that she has renounced the 1859 Treaty. That alone would not affect the validity of the borders which the treaty established.

For her to succeed in her claim, Guatemala has to show in a convincing way, that this treaty no longer binds her to accept and respect the borders which the treaty established.

To do this Guatemala must show that the treaty (1859) is not a border treaty. But the preamble to the treaty states clearly that it is a border treaty, and Article 1 of the treaty makes it clear that the purpose of the treaty is to establish secure borders.

A letter written one year earlier by the Guatemalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pedro de Aycinena, addressed members of the Guatemalan Congress and made it clear that Guatemala would be working on a border treaty to bring an end to the dispute with Britain over Belize.

The 1931 Exchange of Notes also provides incontrovertible evidence that 1859 was indeed a border treaty. This exchange of Notes has the status of treaty by itself, and it confirmed, 72 years after 1859, that it is a border treaty.

The 1931 Exchange of Notes demarcates the frontier line on the western border. Guatemalan commissioners on the ground verified that the line was true and valid, and they signed a map showing the now established border.

As a clinching argument Belize can show that Guatemala revoked the 1859 Treaty, but did nothing to revoke the 1931 Exchange of Notes. To all intents and purposes the 1931 Exchange of Notes still stands. That exchange establishes the Belize border in the west beyond all reasonable doubt!

Once the doctrine of Uti possidetis is disposed of, Belize is home free. Nothing in law will change that!

And we won’t have to share any land or sea with Guatemala.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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