Belize: The "bitter sweet" ruling of the Court of Appeal
On Thursday, 25th of July 2013, The Court of Appeal in Belize met and gave its final judgement on the appeal of the 2010 Supreme Court case on Maya land rights in Belize.
In a Landmark decision handed down by the Supreme Court of Belize on June 28th, 2010, Chief Justice Dr. Abdulai Conteh reaffirmed the customary land rights of 38 Maya communities in southern Belize. This had followed the judgment of 2007 where the Chief Justice had declared that it was a “direct sequel of the judgment of this court in Claims No. 171 and 172 of 2007, which was delivered on 18th October 2007.”
This ruling was the first to establish that the Maya People of southern Belize have customary land rights and resource rights, which are protected by the Constitution and must be held inviolate. However, when the Supreme Court re-affirmed that Maya People of Southern Belize have rights to their lands in June 2010, the Government of Belize - the Barrow Administration- appealed the case in 2011.
The Maya communities waited for almost 3 years and finally the verdict is out. While it reaffirmed the October 18th, 2007 decision by former Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh that the Maya of Toledo do have customary land rights in Southern Belize, it overturned orders that Conteh had made, binding the Government of Belize to give effect to those rights.
For Gregory Ch’oc, Executive Director of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) this is a “bitter sweet” ruling. Read more...
Photo: Gregory Ch’oc – Executive Director of SATIIM