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Observer group returns from Belize after referendum halted

17 April 2019

A Commonwealth Observer Group deployed to Belize to monitor a nationwide referendum has returned home after the vote was suspended.

Belize voters were expecting to vote on the following question on April 10: " Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determines finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the parties?"

However, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin of the Belize Supreme Court granted an injunction halting the referendum on the grounds it might lead to territorial changes inconsistent with the constitution.

The observer group was led by Hubert A Ingraham, former Bahamas Prime Minister, and was composed of 10 specialists from across the Commonwealth with backgrounds in election management, law, gender, civil society, media, and politics.

The Belizean government is now working on legislation which it says will address the injunction. The Commonwealth is monitoring the situation closely and stands ready to observe any potential future referendum.