The Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy (IPLP) Program at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law secured a major victory for people in the Maya communities of southern Belize when, on June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court of Belize ruled in their favor. For the last several years Lannan Foundation has supported the IPLP’s team of lawyers and students in assisting Maya communities in filing and litigating the class action that resulted in the affirmation of their traditional land rights.
The recent judgment follows a ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Belize in 2007 in favor of the two Maya communities of Santa Cruz and Conejo. That decision, also achieved with the IPLP Program’s assistance, recognized the rights of the two communities to occupy and use their lands. It was the first judicial decision to rely on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which had been passed just weeks before.
Maya leaders and the IPLP Program sought to have the decision apply to all 38 Maya villages in Southern Belize, and eventually filed a second lawsuit to do so. Case 366, as it became known, was just decided and should set the way for the administrative mechanisms to legally secure the land rights of all Maya villages.
The Maya Leaders Alliance statement on their court victory is available here as a PDF. You may download it or view it in the browser.