Court grants relief to Maya people

CCJBELMOPAN, Belize – In a historic ruling, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ordered the Belize government to pay members of the Maya community compensation for breaching their constitutional rights.
A fund of BZ$300,000 (US$150,375) is to be set up as a result of the order.
The CCJ ruling was in favour of 25 members of the Maya community of the Toledo District who have been fighting for recognition and protection of Maya land rights before local and international courts for about two decades.
Their appeal before the CCJ arose out of litigation triggered by an incursion onto farm lands in the Golden Stream village by a now deceased man. While that appeal was being heard by the CCJ in Belize, the Mayans and the government entered into a Consent Order on April 22 which recognized the Mayans’ property rights.
The Consent Order also requires the government to develop a mechanism to recognize and protect Maya land rights in consultation with the Maya people. The parties are to report to the CCJ on the chosen mechanism by April 2016.
Under the Consent Order, the CCJ was asked to decide whether the Appellants should be granted damages for breach of constitutional rights, which was the main focus of the judgment.
“The CCJ found that the hovernment of Belize breached the appellants’ right to protection of the law by failing to ensure that the existing property regime, inherited from the pre-Independence colonial system, recognized and protected Maya land rights,” the Trinidad-based court said in a statement.