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Amnesty International Report 1998 - Belize

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1998
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1998 - Belize, 1 January 1998, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
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.
(This report covers the period January-December 1997)

A 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped and at least one man was ill-treated by police. A prison officer shot and injured a death-row prisoner in disputed circumstances. Two new death sentence were passed and seven men sentenced in previous years remained under sentence of death. One death-row prisoner was acquitted at a retrial. No executions were carried out.

In November two police officers were suspended pending investigation after they allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl in Punta Gorda police station.

At least one man was subjected to ill-treatment by police. On 4 September convicted prisoner John Joy Hernandez was repeatedly flogged by a police officer while another held him down, after he had been recaptured following an escape attempt. One police officer was suspended from duty pending an investigation into the incident.

Prison conditions at Hattieville Rehabilitation Centre fell far short of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. A constitutional appeal on behalf of three death-row inmates – Pasqual Bull, Herman Mejía and Nicolás Antonio Guevara – arguing that such conditions constituted inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and violated the Constitution, was still pending before the Supreme Court of Belize (see Amnesty International Report 1997). A similar appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of Adolph Harris, and a petition by Wilfred Lauriano (see Amnesty International Report 1997) for leave to file a constitutional appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (jcpc) in the United Kingdom, the final court of appeal for Belize, were adjourned pending the outcome of the joint appeal.

In August Wilfred Lauriano was shot in the back by a prison guard at the Hattieville Rehabilitation Centre. According to an official report, he had been attempting to escape with two other death-row inmates, Adolph Harris and Cleon Smith. However, Wilfred Lauriano stated that the shooting occurred as they approached the office of a senior prison officer to ask why they had been denied recreation periods for several days. When they disobeyed an order by an officer to turn back, the officer reportedly fired at both Adolph Harris and Wilfred Lauriano. A bullet hit Wilfred Lauriano, penetrating his lower back, and had to be surgically removed. The prisoners claimed it was obvious that they were not trying to escape as they were walking, not running, and were in their underwear. By the end of the year, no official investigation was believed to have taken place. Subsequent reports indicated that Wilfred Lauriano was returned to prison from hospital against the advice of doctors and that the medical care he received in the prison was deficient.

Two new death sentences were passed, both for murder. Cleon Smith was sentenced to death in April, and Norman Shaw in November. Both had appeals pending before the Belize Court of Appeal.

Seven men sentenced to death in previous years remained on death row. Apart from the constitutional appeals already mentioned, final appeals were pending before the jcpc on behalf of Dean Tillett (see Amnesty International Report 1997), whose appeal to the Belize Court of Appeal was dismissed in February; and Pasqual Bull and Marco Tulio Ibañez, who had both been granted leave to appeal to the jcpc in 1996 (see previous Amnesty International Reports).

In June Rupert Burke, convicted of murder in 1995 and sentenced to death, was acquitted at a retrial. In February the Belize Court of Appeal had found that the first trial had been prejudiced because the defendant's lawyer had given evidence in his client's defence. At the retrial the lawyer (no longer representing Rupert Burke) again testified that his client had been beaten by police to make him confess.

Amnesty International called on the authorities to investigate the beating of John Joy Hernandez and to bring those responsible to justice. It also urged the government to submit its second report to the UN Committee against Torture, which was due in 1992.



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