International Court of Justice Could Rule On Guatemalan Claim
By Bilal Morris
The second in a three part series of radio shows on the Belize / Guatemalan dispute was aired on March 3, 2009 by the Los Angeles organ of the Belize Rural Economic Development of Agriculture through Alliance (B.R.E.D.A.A.). The theme, which focused on the International Court of Justice, and the ramifications of addressing the dispute at the court was articulated by the organization’s public policy spokesman Abdullah Muhammad (Bert Pipersberg).
“The Guatemalan claim has adversely affected Belize’s security, stunt its economic growth and development, and in some cases even limited its cultural viability,” stated Muhammad who spoke with KPFK’s Freedom Now host Dedan Kamathi. “Guatemala has referred to an old doctrine called the Right of Inheritance. Their main trust of argument is that since Spain has territory in Guatemala, then by right since Guatemala is a territory of Spain, they could inherit whatever possession Spain had.” But Muhammad stated that that particular argument has never had any stance among intellectuals.
Muhammad stated that Guatemala has always resisted going to the International Court of Justice as a mediator. He said that in 1940 when Belize was a colony of Britain, they had offered arbitration to Guatemala in one of three ways: The first is that Guatemala could go to the Hague or any international tribunal, the second was that the claim could be examined under Chapter 4 of the Hague Convention, and finally that the claim could be taken to the United States for negotiation. However, stated Muhammad, Guatemala rejected all three. He expressed that Guatemala is taking a serious chance taking the claim to the International Court of Justice because precedence is not on their side.
“It’s almost an nefarious attempt to use old grievances from old colonial masters and pass on the people that had no credence of what happened between old powers,” Muhammad said. “It’s almost like Guatemala is clutching at a straw.” But the B.R.E.D.A.A. spokesman reiterated that Guatemala has never relented with their claim and is determined nevertheless.
The show which was aired in time to address pertinent issues on the minds of the Los Angeles Belizean community, answered many questions posed by Diaspora Belizeans. Many wanted to know about the I.C.J. and the present agreement between Belize and Guatemala, the infamous Compromis.
“Belizean governments have always been very secretive and has never been transparent,” stated Muhammad. “There has never been a comprehensive transparent Guatemala policy for Belize. They have always had a double dealing, backsliding way of presenting issues to the people.”
Muhammad vehemently explained to the millions of Pacifica Radio Network listeners, which KPFK is a member station that Belizean governments have always come up with these loosely worded documents like the Webster Proposals, Heads of Agreement and the Maritime Areas Act. But he expressed that the people have always rejected them because the past Belizean governments used these agreements as a nefarious attempt to usurp the confidence of the Belizean people.
Muhammad told the KPFK listening audience that Belize has an excellent case with the I.C.J. if it passes in referenda. But he expressed reservations that the Belizean people will not vote in favor of it because they don’t trust how government has dealt with these issues before.
Many Belizeans in the Diaspora wondered about a possible Guatemalan military invasion. Muhammad expressed that there is a potentiality of an invasion but that he rules it out because Guatemala has had a violent history of military dictatorship and repressive governments against their own people. He stated that Guatemala has killed some 100,000 Campesinos in two decades.
“There is not a military solution to the dispute. It is more of a legal matter now,” said Muhammad. “I don’t think you will necessarily see Guatemala mobilizing troops at the border, and try to invade and forcibly take Belize away.”
In wrapping up his presentation, the BREDAA spokesman concluded that Guatemala is trying to present its case to the world as though they are not that old Guatemala that had insurgency movements against their own people. He elaborated that Guatemala is also trying to present themselves as a Guatemala that is reform, and one that is trying to attract foreign investments to their country.
“Guatemala has formerly accepted Belize as a territory,” said Muhammad. “Once you have done that under international law, you can’t just arbitrary revoke it. It’s done, you have accepted Belize as a sovereign nation.”
- Commentary: The ICJ and the Belize-Guatemala issue: A den of strategy and deceit (cayobuay.wordpress.com)
- Hon. Julius Espat on Belize – Guatemala – ICJ (fiwebelize.com)
- The Icj and Guatemala’s Claim to Belize: a Case of Self Interest Over Sovereignty? (fiwebelize.com)
- Belizeans and the ICJ Concern (fiwebelize.com)
- On discussing part of our path to the ICJ (cayobuay.wordpress.com)
- On Belize vs Guatemala at ICJ (cayobuay.wordpress.com)
- Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute heads to World Court (antiguaobserver.com)
- Commentary: Belize, land of the free… for all? (fiwebelize.com)
- Guatemalan Claim-Part I (fiwebelize.com)
- Guatemalan Claim-Part III (fiwebelize.com)