U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Belize
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Belize, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1d38.html [accessed 4 July 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
BELIZEBelize is a parliamentary democracy with a constitution enacted in 1981 upon independence from the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister, a cabinet of ministers, and a legislative assembly govern the country. The Governor General represents Queen Elizabeth II in the largely ceremonial role of head of state. Both local and national elections are scheduled on a constitutionally prescribed basis. The Government generally respects the constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary. The Police Department has primary responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order. The Belize Defense Force (BDF) is responsible for external security but when deemed appropriate by civilian authorities may be tasked to assist the police department. Both the police and the BDF report to the Minister of National Security and are responsible to and controlled by civilian authorities. There were occasional reports of abuse by the police. The economy is primarily agricultural, although tourism has become the principal source of foreign exchange earnings. The agricultural sector is heavily dependent on preferential access to export markets for sugar and for bananas. The Government favors free enterprise and generally encourages investment, although domestic investors are given preferential treatment over foreign investors in a number of key economic sectors. Preliminary estimates put 1997 gross domestic product growth at 2.5 percent in real terms. Annual per capita income was about $2,540. The Constitution provides for, and citizens enjoy in practice, a wide range of fundamental rights and freedoms. Principal human rights abuses include occasional use of excessive force by the police when making arrests, poor prison conditions, lengthy pretrial detention, political influence on the judiciary, judicial limits on freedom of the press, discrimination and domestic violence against women, and employer mistreatment of immigrant workers in the banana industry.