From Ari at NRDC:
> Dear Friends of the Macal River Valley,
> Get your tickets for London: the Chalillo dam will be on trial before
> the highest court in the Commonwealth this month, the Privy Council of
> London, which has its hearings in a small hall near 10 Downing Street.
> The court date is tentatively set for July 30 and BACONGO has a truly
> stellar team of attorneys to argue the case. (continues below)
> The case against the dam has gotten stronger, and now has become a fight
> over the most basic of human rights: the right to a fair public hearing,
> and the right to equal protection of the law--i.e. a foreign billion
> dollar corporation should not have more rights than a citizen of
> Belize. Belize's government, in a move decried by local media as the
> policy of Fortis' Banana Republic, bulldozed a new Act through
> parliament that purports to make the dam legal, no matter what any court
> says. The law is unconstitutional, and may provoke a constitutional
> crisis, if Fortis acts upon it. The questions about individual
> enrichment in this scheme loom greater, and the international community
> will be investigating this dam not only as an attack on the environment,
> but on the rule of law, and on good governance.
> Below is an update, written in haste. For more information, contact me
> at firstname.lastname@example.org, though I will be in and out of touch this
> coming week. We hope to be updating the www.stopfortis.org site as
> We plan to have a gathering and strategy session for the continuing
> campaign with supporters in London in the days before the
> hearing--please let me know if you are interested in attending, or know
> someone who is.
> All the best,
> Chalillo dam update, Belize
> July 14, 2003
> Highest Court to Judge Belize Dam this month: Unconstitutional law
> attempts to support dam construction
> Human rights in Belize are on the line, as the case against the
> Canadian-backed Chalillo dam will be heard by the highest court in the
> British commonwealth, the Privy Council in London, at the end of July.
> Belizean groups are asking for an injunction to stop dam construction.
> BACONGO, a coalition of Belizean environmental groups, will make its
> case that dam approval was rammed through the environmental approval
> process without a legally required public hearing, and without the basic
> studies of dam geology and archaeology that are required to know if the
> dam design is safe and to know the extent of ancient Maya sites that
> would be destroyed by the project.
> In an act of desperation, at the beginning of June, Fortis and the
> government of Belize, rushed through the "Macal River Hydro Development
> Act", also known as the "Fortis-is-above-the-law Act". The Act attempts
> to legalize the dam *despite the ruling of any court*, and "commands"
> BECOL, Fortis' local subsidiary, to build the dam. Experts in England,
> Canada and Belize say the Act is in direct violation of Belize's
> constitution and is likely to be overturned.
> Rushing ahead of the court ruling, Fortis has begun construction on the
> dam, even though the rainy season has started, making it a race against
> time, the weather and justice-any tropical storm could wash away
> Fortis/BECOL's structures, posing a safety risk to workers and
> downstream communities, and the court ruling may stop the dam
> construction in its tracks-that is if Fortis obeys the court order.
> BACONGO has lined up its legal team in England, including of some of the
> top environmental and constitutional experts. BACONGO and its
> international partners also plan to challenge the new
> Fortis-is-above-the-law Act in international human rights courts.
> BACONGO will also attack the economics of the dam-at $30 million US for
> a 2.9 Megawatt capacity project, it is one of lowest value
> hydro-electric dams in the world. Belizeans, who now pay the highest
> rates of electricity in Central America-nearly three times the price
> that their neighbors pay in Guatemala and Mexico-are demanding fair
> electricity rates. The international community is also beginning to
> scrutinize the financial deals behind the project, and follow the money
> trail to the individuals who stand to benefit.