The San Pedro Sun

Caye International Bank hosts forum on Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute

As part of its staff development process, Caye International Bank (CIB) hosts bi-weekly seminars and sessions to enhance its workforce. On Friday, May 27th, the CIB hosted a forum to discuss a hot topic: Belize/Guatemala Territorial Dispute. Ambassador Stuart Leslie, Coordinator of the Referendum Unit and representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was the invited guest speaker. Since 2013, Leslie has been conducting a public awareness campaign throughout the country to gain the full support of Belizeans to settle the territorial dispute once and for all.


The Referendum Unit highly recommends going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is the highest Court in the international law established to deal with legal and non-legal disputes. It has been many years since Guatemala has been claiming Belizean territory, but they have not taken the matter to court. During the presentation, Leslie educated the bankers about the pros, cons, and risks of taking Guatemala’s long standing claim over Belizean territory to the ICJ.

The ICJ consists of 15 judges, who are elected by the United Nations General Assembly. According to Leslie’s presentation, there is not a set date to go to the ICJ, but Belize is depending on Guatemala to vote ‘yes’ to the referenda. The process may take up to three years to arrive before the ICJ. If Guatemala agrees to the referendum, they will have twelve months to present a memorandum in writing. Belize will also have 12 months to submit a response to Guatemala’s case, giving Guatemala six months to reply.
According to Leslie, Belize has participated in many negotiations to settle the dispute since the 1960’s, and if this dispute doesn’t get settled before the ICJ, there could be many consequences. One of which includes the ongoing invasions of Belize’s territories by the Guatemalans. They will also continue to raid our resources, and show aggression towards our military.

At the end of the presentation, Leslie asserted that Belize has a strong chance of winning the case. He stated that eminent legal advisers have studied and believe that the ICJ will rule in favor of Belize. Guatemala must prove the following before the ICJ in order to hold their claim: a) that Spain was in effective occupation of our territory in 1821, b) that Guatemala had the title to territory of Belize in 1859, c) that the 1859 Treaty was a Treaty of cession; d) that Article 7 was the compensation for that cession. When Guatemalans acknowledge that they don’t have a legal case, they must obey the outcome of the judgement if they agree to go to the ICJ.

As coordinator of the Referendum Unit, Leslie encourages all Belizeans to vote yes to the referendum. By voting yes, the Referendum Unit states that you will empower the ICJ to provide a final settlement of the Guatemalan claim and finalize the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of Belize and Guatemala. Belizeans will also gain legal universal recognition of our land, island, and maritime territories. Leslie indicated that if Belizeans refuse to vote “YES”, Belize risks losing international support, and that future generations will be penalized in terms of security, economic resources, and lost opportunities.