Amnesty International Report 2004 - Belize
|Publication Date||26 May 2004|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2004 - Belize , 26 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b5a1efc.html [accessed 28 July 2015]|
Covering events from January - December 2003
There were reports of killings in disputed circumstances by law enforcement officers. Several people were reportedly ill-treated by police. Prison conditions were reported to have improved, although an official oversight mechanism had yet to be set up . Six people remained on death row.
Said Musa of the People's United Party (PUP) was sworn in as Prime Minister for a second consecutive period of office following his victory in the March general elections. The Organization of American States set up an office near the border with Guatemala to monitor compliance with "confidence-building measures" aimed at resolving the border dispute between the two countries. In December the government signed an impunity agreement with the USA not to surrender US nationals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to the International Criminal Court. Such agreements are in breach of states' obligations under international law.
Killings by security forces in disputed circumstances
There were several reports of unlawful killings by security forces.
- On 7 June, Ruben "Pony" Alarcon was reportedly shot in the back of the head by a police constable in Caye Caulker police station. When Ruben Alarcon, who was unarmed, fell to the ground he was reportedly shot again in the back. The officer responsible was said to have been charged with manslaughter and suspended from duty pending trial. The trial had not started by the end of the year.
- On 14 June, Darnell McDonald was reportedly shot and killed by police in Ladyville. The officers alleged that they opened fire in self-defence after shots were fired at them from a crowd of onlookers as they were carrying out an arrest. Darnell McDonald, who was apparently driving past, was fatally wounded in the neck. In November it was reported that a police officer had been charged with manslaughter in connection with the killing.
- In September there were reports that police in Punta Negra shot and killed Frederick Espinoza, who was believed to be suffering from a mental illness. Police officers had been called to his house after an altercation with his uncle and reportedly found him armed with a machete. Witnesses reported that the officers threw stones at Frederick Espinoza and then shot him four times as he tried to run away.
Alleged ill-treatment by police
There were allegations of ill-treatment by police.
Human rights defenders working on such cases were reportedly harassed.
- In January, human rights lawyer Antoinette Moore and her husband, radio journalist Michael Flores, were charged with drug-related offences by police in Dangriga. Concerns were expressed that the charges may have been intended to intimidate them and stop them protesting against police brutality. The case against Antoinette Moore was dismissed by the court in April. They were released on bail and the case against them was due to be heard by the Magistrate's Court in January 2004.
- In August a high-ranking police officer in Dangriga was arrested and charged with wounding Timotheo Cano and harming Lincoln Cardinez after reportedly illegally detaining and beating them. The officer was reportedly relieved of his duties pending investigation. At the first hearing, which was held in December, additional charges were filed against the officer including false imprisonment and aggravated assault.
There were improvements to Belize's main penal institution, the Hattieville Rehabilitation Centre.
However, a government mechanism for ensuring compliance with international and domestic human rights standards had yet to be fully established.
A proposed constitutional amendment bill was shelved. It would have abolished appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in the United Kingdom – currently the final court of appeal for Belize – in certain murder cases, and made the Belize Court of Appeal the final appellate court in such cases.
The last execution in Belize took place in 1985. Six people were on death row at the end of 2003. No one had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. There was one new death sentence.
Belize continued to fail to offer a meaningful mechanism for people fleeing persecution to apply for asylum, in violation of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to which Belize has acceded.