U.S. Lists Abuses in Human Rights Report on Belize
The U.S. State Department has issued its annual country report on Human Rights practices, focusing on policing and sex orientation issues as the major human rights violations committed locally for the year 2016. Those were followed by corruption by government agents; lack of protection for refugees; domestic violence; discrimination against women; sexual abuse of children; trafficking in persons and child labor. The report notes that prosecutions have not been regularly successful and mainly targeted lower ranking officials. It writes, “While some lower ranking officials faced disciplinary action and/or criminal charges, higher-ranking officials were less likely to face punishment, resulting in a perception of impunity.” On police brutality, the Professional Standards Branch is faulted for lack of action or delayed response to cases, with only forty-one officers on interdiction or suspension—sixteen in 2016—from sixty-four formal complaints of alleged severe police misconduct. The forced removal of Julius Espat from the House of Representatives as well as journalists on August twenty-sixth was featured in the section of the report speaking of freedom of speech and press. Also mentioned is the Special Audit Report on Immigration and scandals in the Lands Department, with former Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega’s resignation and the Senate Special Select Committee’s hearings. Finally, the report claims that no asylum status has been granted to any of more than seventy cases reviewed by the reactivated Refugee Eligibility Committee in 2016.