By Michelle Sutherland
The Guatemalan Government has presented its second-round reply to the International Court of Justice for the territorial claim that the country has against Belize, a statement from the Guatemalan Government confirmed Thursday.
The Guatemalan government’s statement said, "Guatemala's reply reflects all the factual and legal elements that assist the Guatemalan claim, maintained throughout the dispute."
The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry’s statement added, “[The document is] the result of a meticulous and professional process by a team made up of experts of the highest reputation and who represent and defend the interests of Guatemala in international litigation.”
The submission met the December 8th deadline that was established from June this year. Belize will now have until June 8th, 2023, to submit a rejoinder.
Following Belize's filing earlier this year, in his comments to the House of Representatives, Prime Minister John Briceño said, ''Belize will have six months thereafter to deliver our rejoinder, so that by June 2023 we expect the written pleadings in the case to have closed. This, of course, assumes that there will be no further events or eventualities that might delay this case.”
The Prime Minister went on to comment that assuming that there is no further delay in the process, the court will then proceed to set a date for the hearing, which is to occur in 2024, if not before. A press release following Belize's filing also assured Belizeans that Belize’s counter-memorial had made a robust defense of Belize’s sovereignty over its entire territory, including islands and the pertaining maritime areas, in accordance with international law.
Previously, the court, due to the pandemic, was forced to make some adjustments to its timetable and, based on the request of the Guatemalan Government, had initially pushed the deadline for Guatemala to submit its memorial from June 8th, 2020, to December 8, 2020, while Belize's deadline was also moved from June 8th, 2021 to June 8th, 2022.
The ICJ, located in Hague, Netherlands, became the official arbiter of the dispute in June 2019, following an April 2018 referendum in Guatemala and an April 2019 referendum in Belize, during which both countries’ citizens voted ''yes'' to settle the dispute once and for all before the ICJ.
Despite multiple attempts, The Reporter was unable to obtain comments from officials within Belize’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comments.