The country submitted its Counter-Memorial to the Registrar of the ICJ. Guatemala must respond by the end of the year.
By Marco Lopez
BELIZE CITY, Mon 6 Jun 2022
Belize’s government announced during the House of Representatives session on Friday that on June 3, the country had submitted its Counter-Memorial to the Registrar of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in response to the Territorial, Island and Maritime Claim. Guatemala—five days before the June 8 submission deadline. The Belize team reportedly recently traveled to England to put the finishing touches on this recent submission. In announcing this historic milestone, Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño, told members of the House, “Our Counter-Memorial provides a strong defense to Guatemala’s memorial or claim and resolutely defends the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Belize.”
Belize’s communication today marks a milestone in a process that has dragged on since December 2008, when the special agreement was first agreed by the two countries. The ICJ, located in The Hague, Netherlands, acts as the judicial arm of the United Nations. The court became the official arbiter of the dispute in June 2019, with the submission of the special agreement and accompanying protocol.
Subsequently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tribunal was forced to adjust the deadlines at the request of the Guatemalan government and agreed to extend the deadline for filing its brief from June 8, 2020 to December 8, 2020 At the time, Belize’s agent told the court in a letter that two months would be a sufficient extension, in their view. Belize’s submission date was later moved from June 8, 2021 to June 8, 2022.
Guatemala must submit its Response to Belize’s Counter-Memorial no later than December 8, 2022, exactly 6 months after our deadline. Belize will have an additional six months to submit a reply to Guatemala’s response, with a deadline of June 2023, before a date for oral argument is set.
The Prime Minister, in his address to the House, said:June 3 is a historic day for Belize. I can report to this honorable Assembly and to the people of Belize that Belize earlier filed its Counter-Memorial with the International Court of Justice in The Hague.”
He also gave a snapshot of the timeline: “Under this special agreement, Guatemala must submit its Response to Belize’s Counter-Memorial no later than December 3, 2022. Belize will then have six months to file its Reply, so by June 2023 we expect that the documents written in the case will be closed. This, of course, assumes that there will be no other events or contingencies that could delay this matter,” said Prime Minister Briceño.
The COVID-19 pandemic, as mentioned, has delayed the process. The Prime Minister thus said that if there were no further interruptions in the process, a date as early as 2024 could be set for the oral hearings.
“Assuming there is no further delay, the court will set a hearing date, which I am told may be in 2024, if not earlier,” he said. said.
At present, only a few are aware of the details of Guatemala’s Memorial and Belize’s Counter-Memorial, as court rules prohibit any disclosure of the pleadings of either party. . The Prime Minister, however, reassured citizens that a strong case has been submitted for Belize.
“Belizeans can be assured that strong, clear and powerful arguments have been presented for all of our territory, continental and islands, as well as maritime spaces as determined by international law”, said Prime Minister Briceño.
In his remarks, the prime minister also called on the Guatemalan government to adhere to the agreed confidence-building measures of 2005 and prevent their citizens from engaging in illegal activities on the Belizean side of the border.
“We continue to call on Guatemala to adhere to the confidence-building measures in place since 2005, which require, for example, that our governments, the two governments, clear the areas around the three reference markers at Gracias Adios, Garbutt Falls and Aguas Turbias . The Guatemalan government is also committed to deterring its citizens from entering Belize illegally. But we continue to have problems with the Guatemalans occupying Belize near the western border. Narcotics trafficking continues to pose a security challenge, while illegal logging, farming, pocketing and mining continue to cause significant damage to our environment and well-being. Similarly, the Guatemalan government has refused to honor repeated commitments to negotiate confidence-building measures on the Sarstoon River in defiance of calls from international bodies. Once again, we urge the government of Guatemala to implement its commitment to the agreed CBS for the Sarstoon,” said the said the prime minister.