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Nov 7, 2018

Does Spate of Armed Robberies Warrant State of Emergency?

Kevin Arthurs

Back in September, the state of emergency was put in place in two areas of south side Belize City, encompassing the George Street and the Mayflower Street gang territory. More than a hundred were caught in the sweep and over forty gang members were locked up and taken to the Hattieville prison for thirty days following a spate of related murders at the hands of the rivalling groups. The Bar Association of Belize and the Human Rights Commission of Belize questioned whether the statutory instrument was an effective and appropriate strategy.  Human rights attorney Kevin Arthurs wonders whether the spate of armed robberies warrants a state of emergency. He also queries whether it was the intention from the onset to lock up persons during the September celebration and the Christmas holidays. For context, we air what was said by Deputy Commissioner Chester Williams:

 

Kevin Arthurs, Vice President, Human Rights Commission of Belize

“In the last round of state of emergency, the trigger was in fact the murder of a significant gang figure. What I have been looking at has been a series of robberies, which alarming as they are do not—to my mind—amount to something which justifies the suspension of the constitution and the rights that follow thereafter.”

 

Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Police [File: November 5th, 2018]

“If it is that we see that they continue these sort of actions as well as targeting each other so much so that it puts the lives of the ordinary law abiding people at risk or in some degree of threat, then we might move to invoke the state of emergency again and have them away for the September and Christmas season. So I want to say to them that we are monitoring them very closely and if they continue with the way they are going, then we will do what we need to do to ensure that the masses do not suffer at the hands of the minority.”

 

Kevin Arthurs

“And if you listened, there was a bit of a Freudian slip by the police deputy commissioner when he said that there was a plan to get these persons—well there is a suggestion to get these persons off the street for September and December.  So surely the police in their calculations were seeing the possibility of this coming as a need here. If we have to do it again, surely that might be one indication that the first state of emergency has not worked and it might be a strike against the effectiveness of the police strategy that is going on. And so we might want to look at; if we are going to do it, is it appropriate and how can we get it right this time?”

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