Amnesty International Report 2000 - Belize
|Publication Date||1 June 2000|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2000 - Belize , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa0d18.html [accessed 23 July 2014]|
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Colville Young
Head of government: Said Musa
Population: 0.2 million
Official language: English
Death penalty: retentionist
Three people were sentenced to death, but no one was executed. Reports of torture and shootings by police continued. One man was shot dead in disputed circumstances.
The Attorney General proposed to remove or limit criminal appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in London, United Kingdom, with a view to speeding up the process of execution and pending the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice. AI wrote to the government expressing its concern that the proposal would lead to an immediate resumption of executions and a reduction in guarantees for fair trial. The proposal had not been adopted by the end of the year, and AI had not received a response to its inquiry.
Patrick Reyes, Alan Carl and Estevan Sho were convicted of murder and sentenced to death, bringing the number of people under sentence of death to 10. Seven people sentenced to death in previous years had appeals pending before the Court of Appeal in Belize or the JCPC. The JCPC quashed the conviction of Dean Tillett and passed his case back to the Court of Appeal to consider a retrial. The Court of Appeal ordered the retrial of Marco Tulio Ibañ¤ez, who subsequently pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the Supreme Court and was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment.
Police use of excessive force and torture
Reports of torture continued. The government failed to submit its second and third reports to the UN Committee against Torture, in accordance with its obligations as State Party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The reports had been overdue since 1992 and 1996 respectively.
Belize's first Ombudsman was appointed in June to investigate alleged abuses of power by the authorities. He declared that he had received 25 reports of alleged police use of excessive force during the first two months of office, nine of which he forwarded to the police commissioner for further investigation.
- Hector Balcarcel alleged that he was repeatedly beaten and suffered burns to his genitals during detention in April. A medical examination identified abrasions on both his wrists and harm to his testicles and penis. AI received additional information from the government regarding Hector Balcarcel's allegations of torture, but it was still not clear if an independent and thorough investigation had taken place.
- Daniel Tillett was arrested in Independence Park on 21 September and died in the Belize Police Headquarters in Belmopan on the same day. A post-mortem examination reportedly revealed a ruptured liver, a fractured skull, and water in his lungs, and suggested that these injuries had been sustained in police custody. The Commissioner of Police was subsequently removed from office, a second police official was suspended and a third was charged with murder.
Reports of police shootings continued.
- Mateo Ramirez was shot dead in disputed circumstances by members of the Belize Defence Force in the village of Arenal in June. The police indicated that they had fired in self-defence, claiming that Mateo Ramirez had attacked them with a machete, but witnesses reported that the soldiers' lives had not been in danger. The Commission of Inquiry established to investigate Mateo Ramirez' death concluded that the shooting had been justified and was carried out in self-defence.
Minister for Youth Dolores Balderamos Garcia introduced legislation to Parliament in January regarding juvenile offenders, which provided for the separation of children from adults in prison.
The government submitted its initial report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in January. The Committee expressed grave concern that corporal punishment was still widely practised in Belize and was not prohibited by law. It recommended that the authorities reform domestic legislation, in the spirit of the UNConvention on the Rights of the Child.