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Durham University

IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Belize and Guatemala territorial dispute to be settled by the ICJ

(13 June 2019)

Belize and Guatemala will take their boundary dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after it was decided by the people of both countries that this was the best course of action to resolve a centuries old dispute.

For the first time in history, the two nations held a referendum in their respective countries to ask the people of their nations whether their dispute should be taken to the ICJ for resolution. This was after they agreed a decade ago that they would only go to the international court for resolution if citizens of both nations approved in popular referendums.

Guatemala voted to go to the ICJ in April 2018 and Belize voted only last month to take the case to court.

Guatemala claims more than half of Belize’s territory, with the original dispute dating back to 1783 when the Spanish gave Britain the right to occupy territory that became known as British Honduras and eventually became Belize.

Guatemala recognised the independence of Belize at the beginning of the 1990s, however it never accepted the borders that were drawn. It continues to claim about 11,000 square km (4,250 square miles) of territory that is also claimed by Belize.

Guatemala and Belize have agreed to accept the court’s decision on “any and all legal claims of Guatemala against Belize to land and insular territories,” a statement said.

The case is expected to take several years to conclude.


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