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
2001 treaty ratifications/signatures: UN Convention against Racism
There were several reports of torture and killings in disputed circumstances by police officers. Four people were sentenced to death and two others saw their sentences commuted. No one was executed. Five trade unionists were expelled from the country, reportedly because of their union activities. Their expulsion orders were subsequently revoked by Prime Minister Said Musa.
Killings in disputed circumstances
Several reports of police shootings in disputed circumstances were received in 2001. In some cases an investigation was announced, but the outcome was not known at the end of the year.
- George Michael Hyde , whom police apparently suspected of drug dealing, was shot by police in October after he refused to stop at a roadblock at the entrance to Benque Viejo Town. The police claimed that George Michael Hyde had fired at them and was killed when they returned fire. The family contested this version as there were no bullets holes in the car, there was no blood on the front seat and he had bruises on his face.
- A police officer shot 18-year-old Frederick Reynolds in an apparent revenge attack. Frederick Reynolds had testified against the officer in a case about police brutality. Police claimed that the officer's gun went off accidentally, hitting Frederick Reynolds. However, a witness already in custody stated that he saw the officer throw Frederick Reynolds into the vehicle and begin beating him. The officer then reportedly pulled out a gun and shot Frederick Reynolds in the chest. By the end of the year, the Police Department had sent all statements to the Director of Public Prosecutions for the investigation, but no report had been made public.
Human rights organizations, lawyers and journalists reported that ill-treatment and torture by the security forces were widespread, but were often not reported because victims feared reprisals.
- Seventeen-year-old Francis Westby was said to have been brutally beaten by police during arrest on 23 July. A witness said that the police hit Francis Westby several times, pushed his head into a pool of water and continued to beat him as they escorted him to their vehicle. The Police Internal Affairs Unit opened an investigation, but the outcome was not known at the end of the year.
Prison conditions reportedly remained very poor. Among the main concerns were insanitary conditions, partly as a result of overcrowding, and reports that minors were in some cases imprisoned with adults. People convicted and sentenced to periods of up to three months' imprisonment can be held in district police stations, where conditions were said to be poor. The Penal System Reform (Alternative Sentences) Bill 2001, due to be enacted in January 2002, lists a number of minor offences for which offenders can be sentenced to a community service order rather than imprisonment. This was part of an effort to reduce the prison population.
Corporal punishment continued to be inflicted. The punishment was reinstituted in prisons in February 2000.
- Frederick Arzu and John Elijio each received four lashes with a tamarind whip on 4 September for escaping from jail.
In February in Barbados, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states signed an historic agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in London, United Kingdom, as the final court of appeal for Belize and the Commonwealth Caribbean. The CCJ had not been set up by the end of the year.
The last execution in Belize took place in 1985. However, 13 people remained on death row at the end of 2001. During 2001, four men were sentenced to death. Two others sentenced to death in 1993 and 1994 had their sentences commuted to life in prison, in accordance with previous JCPC jurisprudence regarding individuals who have spent five or more years on death row.
On 5 September the Minister of Immigration issued an expulsion order against five banana workers and trade unionists. The men had recently been fired from their jobs, allegedly because of their trade union activities. On 6 September, four of the men, two Belizean nationals and two permanent residents, were expelled to Honduras. One day later the Prime Minister revoked the order and the four men were allowed to return to Belize.
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