Country
Belize
Sources
InforMEA
Tagging
Land Tenure, Constitutional, Property, Land Use, Evidence, Forests, Res Judicata, Contract, Permits, Standing
Abstract
The evident and undeniable link between the Maya Land Rights case and the instant case is that they both relate to the existence or otherwise of Maya customary land tenure in Southern Belize and the constitutional implications that arise for such tenure by members of the Maya Communities flowing from alleged conduct of the defendants. This is a constitutional claim for alleged violation of sections of the Constitution which can lie at the suit of “any person” who alleges a violation of sections 3 to 19 thereof. The claimants now seek a declaration reaffirming that part of that judgment that Maya customary land tenure rights exist in the Toledo District, and that where they exist they constitute “property” within the meaning of sections 3(d) and 17 of the Belize Constitution. However, the present claim seeks different relief from those sought in the Maya Land Rights case. The instant claim is about the defendants’ obligation to protect the constitutional rights of the claimants, particularly their right to Maya customary land rights and interests in the Maya villages in the Toledo District. These are rights and interests which were the subject of determination in the Maya Land Rights case. The claimants in the instant case are seeking to prove that there is an obligation on the defendants to protect these rights and interests, and they claim that the failure to so provide the necessary protection for those rights and interests is a disregard or violation of that obligation amounting to a breach of the several sections of the Belize Constitution. The historical, ancestral and cultural continuity between the claimants and the original inhabitants of what is today Toledo District entitles them to lay claim to customary rights and interests in land in the area. The grant of leases under previous Crown Lands Acts and now under the National Lands Act, is not to be construed, in the absence of clear and unambiguous words, as intended to extinguish or diminish rights and interests in land under common law indigenous title. The Judge held: I reaffirm the judgment of this court, delivered on 18 th October 2007, and now declare that Maya customary land tenure exist in all the Maya villages in the Toledo Districts and where it exists, it gives rise to collective and individual property rights within the meaning of sections 3(d) and 17 of the Belize Constitution and that there is an obligation on the defendants to adopt affirmative measures to identify and protect the rights of the claimants based on Maya customary tenure in conformity with the constitutional protection of property and non-discrimination pursuant to sections 3, 3(d), 16 and 17 of the Belize Constitution.