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Amnesty International Report 1999 - Belize

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1999 - Belize, 1 January 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa0644.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

There were further reports of ill-treatment by police. Eight prisoners remained under sentence of death. No death sentences were issued and no executions were carried out during the year.

Said Musa of the People's United Party was elected Prime Minister in general elections in August.

There were further reports of ill-treatment in detention centres and at the time of arrest by police. According to reports, Orvin Myvette, a soldier in the Belize Defence Force, was repeatedly beaten by law enforcement officials while held for questioning at the Orange Walk police station in September. Orvin Myvette's lawyer reportedly lodged a complaint and was told by the police that the case would be investigated. In October the Attorney General told Amnesty International that an inquiry into the incident would soon be completed and that the results would be forwarded to the organization. By the end of the year no further information on the case had been received.

No further information was received regarding the investigation into the beating of John Joy Hernandez in September 1997 (see Amnesty International Report 1998).

Conditions at Hattieville Rehabilitation Centre, the main penal institution, fell short of international standards. There were reports of poor sanitation due to overcrowding, inadequate water and toilet facilities, and lack of exercise.

Eight men were under sentence of death at the end of the year. No death sentences were passed and no executions took place.

In April, in its first judgment on the constitutionality of the death penalty, the Supreme Court dismissed the constitutional motion made on behalf of death row prisoners Pasqual Bull, Herman Mejía and Nicolás Antonio Guevara (see Amnesty International Report 1998). The judge rejected the motion, which claimed that hanging the men would amount to cruel and inhuman punishment, on the grounds that the death penalty is sanctioned by the Belize Constitution and therefore cannot be called cruel or inhuman. The judge also rejected the argument that conditions at the Hattieville Rehabilitation Centre constituted inhuman and degrading treatment and that execution after prolonged detention in such conditions would again contravene the Constitution.

In March Pasqual Bull's murder conviction was reduced to manslaughter by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in the United Kingdom, the final court of appeal for Belize, and his sentence was subsequently commuted to 25 years' imprisonment by the Supreme Court. An appeal by Herman Mejía and Nicolás Guevara against the Supreme Court decision was scheduled to be heard by the Court of Appeal in February 1999.

A petition for leave to file a constitutional appeal on behalf of Wilfred Lauriano (see Amnesty International Report 1998) was adjourned pending the outcome of the appeal of Herman Mejía and Nicolás Guevara. A further criminal petition was lodged with the JCPC on Wilfred Lauriano's behalf on the basis of new evidence. In December the JCPC concluded that the petition required further investigation and granted special leave to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal, which was scheduled to hear the case in February 1999.

A constitutional appeal on behalf of Adolph Harris before the Court of Appeal and the final appeal to the JCPC on behalf of Dean Tillett (see Amnesty International Report 1998) were still pending at the end of the year.

In April the JCPC quashed the conviction of Marco Tulio Ibañez (see Amnesty International Report 1998) and remitted the case to the Court of Appeal to consider whether to order a retrial.

Appeals on behalf of Norman Shaw and Cleon Smith were believed to be pending at the end of the year (see Amnesty International Report 1998).

Amnesty International expressed concern about the renewed reports of ill-treatment by police and called on the authorities to investigate the beating of John Joy Hernandez and Orvin Myvette and to bring those responsible to justice. The organization also expressed concern about the prison conditions in Hattieville Rehabilitation Centre. It again urged the government to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and to submit its second report to the UN Committee against Torture, which was due in 1992. The organization continued to call for the abolition of the death penalty.

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