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July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
INDIGENOUS
LAND
RIGHTS:
The case of the
Toledo Maya
By Adele O. Ramos
July 28, 2014
Claims that there are a total
of 42 Maya villages in
Southern Belize.
At the time of the publication,
the population of t...
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
Legal disputes between the Maya of Toledo and
the Government of Belize began in the
1990s.
Problem: logging
July 2014, Ade...
However, oil drilling is at the heart of
today's debate
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
Large-scale logging and oil
exploration – threats to their
traditional way of life.
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
In 2000, the Government of Belize, under the
former political administration, had entered into a
10-point agreement with t...
Point 6 of that agreement says:
That the GOB recognizes that the Maya People
have rights to lands and resources in souther...
Point 7 of the agreement said:
That the first consideration of the partnership
between the GOB and the Maya Leaders will b...
The GOB and the Maya leaders shall develop,
within four (4) months after the signing of this
agreement, a framework and
ta...
Maya lands have still not been demarcated;
And they contend that the failure of the
Government of Belize to even acknowled...
The initial claim of 2007 was filed in the Belize
Supreme Court by only two Maya villages:
Conejo and Santa Cruz.
July 201...
In October 2007, the Supreme
Court issued a landmark ruling
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
Former Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh
decided the following:
That the Maya of Toledo do have
land property;
That they are ...
The Chief Justice said in this
decision that the principle of
customary Maya land tenure
extended to the other Maya
villag...
THE DISTRICT OF TOLEDO
TOL
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
“…to determine,
demarcate and provide
official documentation of
these villages’ titles and
customary rights…
without preju...
Questions about true ancestry
The Government of Belize maintained in court that the
Maya of Toledo are not the true desce...
Questions about true ancestry
The Maya had their own expect witness, Dr. Richard
Wilk of Indiana University, who pointed ...
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
Subsequent legal rounds
2011 – The Barrow (United Democratic Party)
administration appeals the second Supreme Court
rulin...
The Court of Appeal Decision
“The unchallenged evidence in this case has shown
that, from the earliest years of the colon...
The controversy:
The Court of Appeal dismissed a series of orders which
Conteh had made in favor of the Maya villages, as...
Court of Appeal
president disagrees
The Court of Appeal president, in his
minority decision, said that he disagreed
that ...
Subsequent legal rounds
June 2014 – Supreme Court Justice Michelle Arana
orders court-connected mediation in dispute over...
The Government
sticks to its position
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has said that the status quo in
Toledo will remain until...
Case before the CCJ
BZCV2014/002
The Maya Leaders Alliance & The Toledo
Alcaldes Association on behalf of the
Maya village...
Questions?
THANK YOU!
July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
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Indigenous Land Rights: Toledo Maya

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Presentation on Maya Land Rights issue

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Indigenous Land Rights: Toledo Maya

  1. 1. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS: The case of the Toledo Maya By Adele O. Ramos July 28, 2014
  2. 2. Claims that there are a total of 42 Maya villages in Southern Belize. At the time of the publication, the population of the Maya was numbered at 14,000. Today they are said to comprise 10% of Belize's population, or about 30,000 people. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  3. 3. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  4. 4. Legal disputes between the Maya of Toledo and the Government of Belize began in the 1990s. Problem: logging July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  5. 5. However, oil drilling is at the heart of today's debate July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  6. 6. Large-scale logging and oil exploration – threats to their traditional way of life. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  7. 7. In 2000, the Government of Belize, under the former political administration, had entered into a 10-point agreement with the Maya. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  8. 8. Point 6 of that agreement says: That the GOB recognizes that the Maya People have rights to lands and resources in southern Belize based on their long-standing use and occupancy. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  9. 9. Point 7 of the agreement said: That the first consideration of the partnership between the GOB and the Maya Leaders will be the establishment of a program to address the urgent land needs of the Maya communities of the south, including the surveying and distribution of lands or establishing and protecting communal Lands, depending on the various needs of the Maya communities. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  10. 10. The GOB and the Maya leaders shall develop, within four (4) months after the signing of this agreement, a framework and target dates, as well as administrative and other measures for the implementation of the programme. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  11. 11. Maya lands have still not been demarcated; And they contend that the failure of the Government of Belize to even acknowledge their customary land rights propelled them to seek the court's redress. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  12. 12. The initial claim of 2007 was filed in the Belize Supreme Court by only two Maya villages: Conejo and Santa Cruz. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  13. 13. In October 2007, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  14. 14. Former Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh decided the following: That the Maya of Toledo do have land property; That they are able to assert derivative rights and interests with respect to those lands. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  15. 15. The Chief Justice said in this decision that the principle of customary Maya land tenure extended to the other Maya villages in Toledo. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  16. 16. THE DISTRICT OF TOLEDO TOL July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  17. 17. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  18. 18. “…to determine, demarcate and provide official documentation of these villages’ titles and customary rights… without prejudice to the rights of neighboring Villages.” July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  19. 19. Questions about true ancestry The Government of Belize maintained in court that the Maya of Toledo are not the true descendants of the Maya who had occupied southern Belize before Spanish conquest in 1540. Their expert, Dr. Jaime Awe of the Institute of Archaeology of Belize, told the court that the area was occupied by the Manche Chol, who are different from the Kekchi and Mopan Maya now inhabiting the region. The Government of Belize argued that the Maya were Guatemalans trying to take a chunk of Belize territory in line with the unfounded claim over half of Belize. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  20. 20. Questions about true ancestry The Maya had their own expect witness, Dr. Richard Wilk of Indiana University, who pointed to 18th century maps – new evidence – which the expert said had signaled the presence of “pagan Indians” in southern Belize during the period in question. Wilk provided evidence which claimed that these Maya were ancestors of those who returned to Belize within the past few decades, to what they deem to be their ancestral homeland. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  21. 21. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  22. 22. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  23. 23. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  24. 24. Subsequent legal rounds 2011 – The Barrow (United Democratic Party) administration appeals the second Supreme Court ruling. July 2013 – the Court of Appeal issued its decision in the matter. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  25. 25. The Court of Appeal Decision “The unchallenged evidence in this case has shown that, from the earliest years of the colony of British Honduras, British policy was to accommodate Maya land use and to encourage Maya settlement… “The earliest Crown Lands Ordinance, which was passed in 1872, specifically provided for the creation and survey of reserves at the Crown’s expense wherever Maya villages existed. The general pattern of accommodation of Maya land use continued well into the 20th century.” July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  26. 26. The controversy: The Court of Appeal dismissed a series of orders which Conteh had made in favor of the Maya villages, as well as an injunction restraining the Government taking certain actions with respect of the lands without the informed consent of the Maya. Conteh had stated that the Government of Belize has an obligation to adopt affirmative measures to identify and protect the rights of the Maya, and went on to order the Government to work along with the Maya to develop legislative, administrative or other measures necessary to identify and protect Maya customary lands, in conformity with traditional practices. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  27. 27. Court of Appeal president disagrees The Court of Appeal president, in his minority decision, said that he disagreed that “on the evidence, there exist the essential historical and ancestral links between the original inhabitants of what is today the Toledo District and the respondents…” Sosa said that he was also unable to agree with Dr. Conteh that the Maya claimants have entitlements to the land in question. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  28. 28. Subsequent legal rounds June 2014 – Supreme Court Justice Michelle Arana orders court-connected mediation in dispute over oil exploration in Southern Belize. Both parties have appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice – the court of highest jurisdiction under the Belize Constitution. Only 23 villages are now parties to the appeal. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  29. 29. The Government sticks to its position Prime Minister Dean Barrow has said that the status quo in Toledo will remain until the matter is decided by the Caribbean Court of Justice. Back in 2010, the Maya had asked the Government to drop its appeal so that the matter could be speedily resolved. In May 2013, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has called out the Government of Belize for having allowed private companies to carry out oil exploration and exploitation and logging activities in the traditional lands of Maya communities under permits issued by State authorities without first consulting with the Maya. July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  30. 30. Case before the CCJ BZCV2014/002 The Maya Leaders Alliance & The Toledo Alcaldes Association on behalf of the Maya villages of Toledo District & 23 Others on their own behalf & on behalf of 23 other Maya villages v The Attorney General of Belize July 2014, Adele O. Ramos
  31. 31. Questions? THANK YOU! July 2014, Adele O. Ramos

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