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Aug 17, 2016

Government Will Not Appeal Section 53 Decision; A.G. Cites Legal Advice

Vanessa Retreage

The Government of Belize has announced that it will not appeal the landmark decision of the Supreme Court in respect of Section Fifty-three of the Criminal Code.  That statement comes one week after Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled in favor of gay rights activist Caleb Orozco who successfully challenged the constitutionality of that piece of legislation, which criminalized same sex intercourse between consenting adults.  During a press conference this afternoon, Attorney General Vanessa Retreage conceded that the Barrow administration will not pursue the matter before the appellate court, much to the chagrin of the churches.  Prior to today’s announcement, the National Evangelical Association of Belize, along with the Roman Catholic Church, in separate letters written to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, urged government to appeal the decision for several reasons.  Despite those points, Attorney General Retreage says that government is satisfied having consulted further legal advice and will not venture beyond the CJ’s judgment.

 

Vanessa Retreage, Attorney General

“The decision to amend Section Fifty-three of the Criminal Code to decriminalize consensual sexual acts between adults in private has generated much controversy; however, the government must accept, as the court has stated, that public opinion cannot be allowed to shift the court from performing its solemn duty to interpret the constitution and would add or the government from its duty to respect the decision of the court.  In this regard, it is of utmost importance that the public understands the findings of the Honorable Chief Justice in their barest form without the bias of either opposing view.  The government, in considering whether it would appeal, embarked on this sober exercise for itself and found the following to be the findings of the Honorable Chief Justice: one, that consensual sexual acts between adults in private is no longer a crime; and two, that the constitution as it now reads, without any amendment, should be interpreted so as to prevent discrimination against any person as a result of that person’s sexual orientation.  Those are the very narrow and limited findings of the Chief Justice.  The government has closely considered the option of appealing and has sought legal advice as to the possible merits and benefits of appealing.  In this regard, it is noted that there were seven interested organizations which argued the case apart from the claimant and the government with no less than fifteen attorneys representing them.  Government is therefore satisfied that the case was properly argued and does not see any aspect of the decision that would benefit from further argument and as such, has taken the decision not to appeal.  It is also conscious that the option of appealing is open to one or more of the interested parties and it is not the government’s intent to influence or in any way preclude any legal steps which others may consider that they wish to pursue.  The government is however satisfied that it must not appeal simply for the sake of appealing but must ensure that its actions best serves the interests of the Belizean people.”

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1 Response for “Government Will Not Appeal Section 53 Decision; A.G. Cites Legal Advice”

  1. CEO says:

    A smart move by the GOB

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