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Aug 25, 2017

Belize refocuses efforts to address human trafficking

Last Wednesday, Minister of Human Development Anthony Martinez and Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte met with U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as part of a roundtable seminar on trafficking in persons organized by the Human Trafficking Institute. It comes on the heels of the State Department’s report which leaves Belize at Tier Three, as one of the countries which it says is not doing enough to address the issue. Meetings were held with various entities within the U.S. government, from the Department of Justice and Diplomatic Security, to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, and the Trafficking in Persons Office of the State Department. Belize, said Peyrefitte today, is cautiously moving forward with plans to address the modern-day scourge.

 

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

Michael Peyrefitte

“We met with the deputy attorney general, we met with the homeland security, department of health and human services, the F.B.I. as well as the most important though was with the state department because they are the ones who craft the report based on the information that they get here in Belize. So, we have committed and as I briefed cabinet, cabinet has okayed some other things suggested by the human institute. We are going to have one prosecutor in the D.P.P.’s office, that prosecutor will be the only prosecutor in the D.P.P.’s office focusing on human trafficking cases. We will have a Supreme Court judge that will be the human trafficking judge. We will have a human trafficking department within the police department; we will start it off with a couple officers. And those steps that we will take will start to develop a structure top demonstrate that we are serious about human trafficking. I try to convince the state department that we don’t have as many cases as they say we have. What they want to see are figures, they want to see arrest, they want to see convictions but I told them that I don’t know how it is in the US but in Belize a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty and we don’t arrest people unless you have evidence. So, you can’t be arresting people in a small society damaging peoples reputation and then we have no evidence because you will never get over that stigma for being arrested for something that appears to be a sex crime or a human  trafficking crime.”

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