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Apr 23, 2018

Reporter’s assaults spotlighted in U.S. human rights report

The U.S. State Department has issued the 2017 report on human rights issues worldwide, including Belize. Belize is faulted for several alleged unlawful killings by security officers, corruption by government agents; killings motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity, trafficking in persons, dealt with more extensively in a separate report released last year; and child labor. Instances of abuse of members of the press featured prominently – or at least one such member, Marisol Amaya. Her assault by macebearer Brian Audinett at the Senate during a Special Select Committee hearing in May and again while covering a protest in Orange Walk were highlighted. Audinett was reprimanded and barred from attending subsequent sessions but continues to serve as macebearer, while the Orange Walk matter was reported to the Professional Standards Branch. The report notes that higher ranking government and security officials are considered immune from disciplinary action and/or criminal charges compared to lower ranked officials caught committing abuses. The killings referred to are those of Richard Garcia in Chunox in June 2017 and Edwin Ixpatac in March of 2016. In the latter case, the accused police officers will be tried for manslaughter and not murder. Other highlighted cases of police abuse included the melee in San Pedro last April and the alleged rape of two women in a police station in November. The report also highlights complaints made against the Lands Department for “hustling” as well as the Immigration Department.

 

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