Saturday, July 13, 2024

Belize plans to take Honduras to the ICJ over the Sapodilla Caye region dispute

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The territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala may not be the only one Belizeans face. A claim to parts of Belize’s southern islands and waters may be brought up by Honduras. Therefore, the Government of Belize plans to take Honduras to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The area in dispute is the Sapodilla Caye range, located in the southernmost group of islands/cayes in Belize’s waters.

On Monday, October 24th, GOB presented the motion in the Senate to take Honduras to the ICJ. The government is attempting to do so by acceding to ‘The Bogota Pact.’ This agreement was signed by the independent states in the American continent at the 9th International Conference of American States in Bogota, Colombia, in April 1948. The purpose of this agreement is to impose a general obligation on the signatories to settle their disputes peacefully. This mechanism is another bridge to take disputes to the ICJ.
According to GOB’s representative Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration, the Honourable Eamon Courtenay, his government was advised by its international lawyers to take such action. According to Courtenay, Honduras was asked to recognize its exclusive sovereignty over the Sapodilla Cayes, but it has yielded no concession from the Honduran government.
The motion was presented because Honduras maintains a claim of the Sapodilla Caye range. This claim has been highlighted in their constitution since 1982. The Caye range is also claimed by Guatemala, which claims more than that Belizean territory. The Guatemalan claim on Belize has been submitted to the ICJ, where it will be settled. GOB also wants the ICJ to determine Belize’s sovereignty over the Sapodilla area; however, the government believes a separate dispute could affect the process. Thus, they want to also deal with the issue with Honduras at the ICJ.
The Opposition led by the United Democratic Party strongly opposed such a motion. Courtenay was asked to hold the motion back and allow the Belizean people to vote on it. They asked for an educational campaign and a referendum in which the decision would be up to the voters. This was the same method administered in May 2019 when Belizeans submitted a YES vote that authorized the government to settle the Guatemalan claim at the ICJ.

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