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Oct 29, 2018

Partial Appeal to Section Fifty-Three Ruling Heard….

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision in the matter of Attorney General versus Caleb Orozco. Up until six o’clock, the court heard arguments in government’s appeal to part of the 2016 Section Fifty-Three ruling by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin.   Two years ago, the Chief Justice handed down a historic ruling in the matter of Caleb Orozco versus the Attorney General of Belize. Orozco, the Executive Director of UNIBAM, successfully challenged Section Fifty-Three of the Criminal Code which criminalizes carnal intercourse against the order of nature to be punishable by up to ten years in jail.  The court agreed that Orozco’s rights had been infringed and his constitutional rights to human dignity, privacy and equality had been violated.  The churches had initially attached themselves as interested parties to the appeal, but later withdrew, leaving the government to proceed with its partial appeal. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo has the story.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

More than two years after Section Fifty-Three was read down from the Criminal Code and after a historic legal battle was won by United Belize Advocacy Movement, the Court of Appeal today heard legal submissions from the Government which is partially appealing the ruling of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. While the government has accepted the ruling of section fifty three, it finds issue with the interpretation of the word ‘sex’ and questions the Chief Justice’s authority to expand the meaning of sex to include ‘sexual orientation’.  Government’s legal stance is that the Chief Justice acted outside his jurisdiction. G.O.B.’s Attorney Solicitor General Nigel Hawke questioned whether the court could take it upon itself to expand or insert a term into the constitution as a member of judiciary.

 

Westmin James

Westmin James, Attorney for Caleb Orozco

“The Attorney General has been arguing in this appeal is that the learned trial judge just applied international laws in Belize without being incorporated. We would have this afternoon if it is not dismissed, to explain that the learned trial judge never did any such thing. The learned trial judge engaged in interpretation of the constitution as he is suppose to do under the constitution, using cannons of interpretation that has been laid down from time in memorial, from the start of constitution interpretation and has been recently adjudicated by the CCJ and he is bound by. So he was only engaging in interpretation of a provision of a constitution and to help him interpret that provision he was using law from across the world including provisions from Belize international obligation.”

 

Attorney for Caleb Orozco says government’s appeal does not change anything and the court should not waste its time. The respondents made submissions to have the Court dismiss the appeal. It was unsuccessful and the hearing proceeded. Attorney for the respondent argued that Government’s position is based on a hypothetical view of what might happen.

 

Westmin James

“The Attorney General’s appeal is on the basis that he is saying that the court’s interpretation of one provision of the constitution he believes is wrong. So we have made a preliminary objection that that does not change anything. Even if he wins, it does not change that the law is unconstitutional and from then the law will not apply to male person’s consensual intimacy of adults in privacy. This read down of the law by the learned chief justice will not change, that remains the law of Belize. So the appeal does not take us any further. We are making that point. There are a lot of laws that courts of appeals and higher courts don’t engage in matters that don’t change anything. They rather that there be a case where it will be affecting  come before then so that t hey can properly adjudicate on it. They don’t like these sort of hypothetical questions.”

 

Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman, Attorney for Caleb Orozco

“During his submissions the Solicitor General said specifically that the decision of the Chief Justice in terms of Section Fifty Three is not being objected to. So therefore any objection in terms of sex and sexual orientation is for some future, possible, hypothetical situation. In other words, this law isn’t going to change with this appeal. And they admit that. But they have provided absolutely no circumstances in which this will arise specifically. What Mr. James is saying to the court is that they should wait until there is such a specific circumstance to arise to then have that argument and make that decision.”

 

Hawke argued that the Chief Justice’s action to extend the meaning of sex has very far reaching implications in the public domain. But Orozco argues that he is part of the public domain and his rights as a human being and as a Belizean citizen must be respected and protected.

 

Caleb Orozco

Caleb Orozco, Executive Director, UNIBAM

“Is it the official policy of the state to treat its own LGBTI citizens as second class citizens in their own country? That question is extended to the party in opposition. Is it the position of both parties that LGBTI citizens who are voters should be treated in separate but unequal laws that discriminate? If there answer yes, we are going to have a problem with that because at the end of the day our lives are not to be treated with any level of expendability.  Our lives have value and our community will stand firm.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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