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Jul 13, 2011

Draconian legislation may affect human rights

The Preventative Detention bill was flatly rejected by the public when it was first proposed in 2007, but in May of this year the government re-introduced the bill in the House of Representatives for a first reading as a means to fight crime. It came up again for a second reading in June at the House but was eclipsed by the government’s nationalization of Belize Electricity Limited at the same sitting. But even at a time when crime and violence are at an all time and everyone is desperate for something to be done, there is major opposition to the proposed law which is widely viewed as a repressive one. The government says it has modified the bill, but according to the Human Rights Commission, is raising alarm at how far the proposed legislation goes in eroding the freedoms and liberties of individuals.  Attorney and Human Rights Commission Volunteer, Audrey Matura Shepherd, gave a detailed explanation of the areas of concern.

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Volunteer, Human Rights Commission

Audrey Matura Shepherd

“Section five of the constitution says that a person shall not be deprived of his personal liberty, save as may be authorised by a law in any of the following cases and it gives a, b, c, d; several of them but most of them are that you’ve already been convicted, you’re in prison, stuff like that. So they’re adding two and it’s critical for us to understand the two being added. So save as and paragraph K will now be: under a law which makes reasonable provision in the interest of public safety, peace and good order for the preventative detention of persons who are suspected—no evidence, you just have to be suspected—to belong to criminal gangs. So everybody says hurray, hurray, we fight gangs but it goes on: or to have been OTHERWISE associated with criminal activities. Now that otherwise opens it to everything from felony to misdemeanor because it is so encompassing. If it was really to fight gang violence, as we are claiming, then it should have stopped there, not that I even want it to go that far. But just to show that people are so taken up with the gang issue, the violence issue that they have missed the other part that was slipped in.  Under subsection two of section five they are saying you have the right to be informed promptly and in any case no later than twenty-four hours after such arrest or detention in a language you understand of the reasons for your arrest. That is being removed under preventative detention. It’s also saying you would have the right normally to communicate without delay and in private with a legal practitioner of your choice and in the case of a minor with his parent or guardian; that is being removed. You have a right to be informed immediately upon arrest of your rights under paragraph B of this section; that is being removed. You have a right to the remedy by way of Habeas corpus for determining the validity of your detention; now this is a wonderful instrument. Habeas corpus really means bring the body forth so if William is being held for twenty-one days, thirty days, fifty days and no charges, he hasn’t been brought before the court, he hasn’t been offered nor denied bail and we want to know where he is, we can get a competent attorney as Antoinette and say let’s bring a habeas corpus before the court then the judge would hear the matter, they would be forced to bring William to see if his detention is valid; that is being removed.”

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18 Responses for “Draconian legislation may affect human rights”

  1. cg says:

    this is scary times. cant wait for the paradise where we dont have to deal with this kind of crap

  2. WTF says:

    Everyone better stand up and take notice of what this woman is saying…. What the Government is proposing is extremely scary…..rounding up the usual suspects is not a solution….it will only satisfy for a short time and leave you with nothing…while innocent people are held in jail by corrupt cops instituting thier own version of street justice. Think about what will happen to you if you cross or piss off the wrong cop. History has proven over and over that the police cannot be judge, jury and executioner.

  3. Lindsay Howard says:

    This is more than frightening, it’s a precursor to dictatorship. Sounds like the rest of Central and South America in the decades past where people just . . . disappeared.

  4. Elgin Martinez says:

    This law won’t do anything to alleviate crime.What the PM needs to focus on is the conviction rate.

  5. same old script says:

    It is critical that every Belizean fully understand what is being done here. Hitler used similar methods to imprison those who threatened his agenda, and it appears that PM Barrow may do no less.

    Speak up on this issue Belize! Once the current government enacts this law, it will take another constitutional majority to change it back!

  6. CLEANHEART says:

    I DON’T THINK THIS IS SCARY, IF YOU ARE NOT INVOLVE IN CRIME WHY FRETT?
    I ALWAYS WONDER WHY IS IT THAT HUMAN RIGHT ALWAYS STAND UP FOR EVERTHING THAT IS CRIME, DO THESE PEOPLE LIKE AUDREY MATURA EVER IMAGINE WHAT THE VICTIMS OF CRIME FEELS, WE DON’T HAVE ANYBODY TO STAND UP FOR US!! WHY DEFEND CRIME AND CRIMINALS???
    I AM SURE A LAW ABIDING CITIZEN SHOULD HAVE NO FEAR FOR THIS LAW. AND IF POLICE SUSPECTS THAT A CRIME WILL TAKE PLACE LET THEM STOP IT IN TIME, IT COULD BE MISS AUDREY MATURA OR ONE OF HER FAMILY MEMBERS AT RISK.
    ITS MY PERSONAL VIEW BUT I AGREE WITH THESE NEW LAW, AND AS A LAW ABIDING CITIZENS I HAVE NO FEAR FOR IT.

  7. Belize says:

    the idea of the laws of a country are meant to protect its people from every injustice but when the law is crafted to do the opposite the people of the country especially those that are of legal mind should step up to protect the most vulnerable of society. You fight gangs by improving the school systems, social projects, funding for entrepenuers… not hand outs. not laws that seek to repress the society even more….

  8. reatph says:

    I APPLAUDE YOU 100%. EVERYTHING THAT I’VE SEEN YOU DOING SEEMS TO COME FROM THE HEART OF A TRUE PATRIOTIC BELIZEAN. I SALUTE YOU. PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE EYES TO THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD BECAUSE YOU ARE STEPPING ON A LOT OF TOES AND THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE COMING TO GET YOU. BE CAREFUL.

    PEACE

  9. Liberty and Freedom says:

    Cleanheart does not understand the full impact of this proposed legislation. The government (in this case the police) can arrest you for any reason if the suspect (key word) you of a crime. They do not need any evidence to arrest you. You will not get a speedy hearing or a trial. They will not even explain the charges and your rights. It is not just an issue of human rights, it is an issue of “Liberty and Freedom”. The analysis needs to start at the lowest level. A policeman arrests you as you are walking home from the store. You have done nothing except shop for food. You paid for the food. You have a receipt. The policeman does not explain why you are arrested. You go to jail and sit there until you get a hearing – perhaps days or weeks…. It could be you.

  10. Abe says:

    Dont you guys realize that if the person detained cannot have contact with anybody is a good thing? Why? Because if allowed, all kinds of arrangements can be made, and are made by perpetrators with friends outside, to communicate(this is BAD)!!! This will help conviction!! Im sure it will. Everyday witnesses say they do not wish to proceed. Why? Because they were threatened!! By whom? By the same one the court is trying to charge!!! PREVENTATIVE DETENTION IS POSITIVE!!!!!

  11. Amanda says:

    I see people don’t understand what this entails and just blind to see the outcome.
    When your child is detain for going out one of these days you see then wake up from your ignorance of how dangerous this law is.

  12. Belizean says:

    PREVENTATIVE DETENTION WILL TARGET POOR BELIZEANS WHO HAVE NO OTHER OPTION THAN TO LOOK THE WAY THEY LOOK. THIS WILL DISCRIMINATE AND STIGMATIZE. THIS IS ABOVE ALL LAWS, IS RACIST AND WILL NOT WORK, YOU WILL GET A RETALIATION LIKE WHAT MEXICO GOT WHEN THEY DECIDED TO CRACK DOWN ON DRUGS, WAY AFTER THE FACT….FREE BELIZE, STAND UP AGAINST THIS!! THIS IS WRONG AND DEMORALIZING TO ALL OUR BELIZEAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS, LETS STAND UP TOGETHER FOR THOSE WHO WE KNOW WILL GET AFFECTED….I disagree wtih abe and Cleanheart, and empatize if you are victims, have you ever asked yourself, if you knew positive preventative measures would ve saved you from this experience would you go with it??? the same way laws are only applied when it is convenient to some, it wont to others who are the real perpetrators. We are all human beings with a right to a better life, priveleges and self respect. Then there is evil that wants to rome free and bring down others way down. Why havent known drug dealers be brought in and made to show the courts and the people how they got so rich. why arent laws passed to target these people. Arent they the ones benefitting from the drug trade, which is fueling the gang wars?? Realize this, the crime rate that is spiralling out of control is more so at the murder level and concentrated in belize city. There are a few in orange walk and other districts that follow in numbers behind, but so it is in every country. The crime rate wont go down or convictions increased if someones inalienable rights are taken away. We re saying here, Guilty until proven innocent, but I’ll hold you and lock you up in a dark room until i can prove you guilty. This is a small country and everybody know everybody. after 21 days criminals will still get to talk to their lawyers and family one way or another, so threats and hits will still be arranged. If we dont get the facts straight at the trial criminals will continue to walk free, and this draconian behaviour will anger our belizeans suffering from this even more, leading to police and ministers being targeted as well. You guys are opening a can of worms u wont be able to handle. When will any government implement projects to take poor belizeans out of poverty, and live meaningful lives rather than turn to the drug trade and war against each other. There are only a few people benefitting from the drug trade and are living free and comfortable in belize, target them, and give the poor options and opportunities to live better lives….!!!! There is a need for talented plumbers, carpenters, contractors, sales men and women, mechanics, and this list goes on…. i dear any one to counter this..!

  13. Elgin Martinez says:

    Abe:How can this preventative detention be positive?What happens after the suspect or suspects are released.

  14. John Boy,Carson,Ca says:

    This law will affect poor blacks , and hispanic Belizeans.All Belizeans are against crime,but at the same time you do not want to give up your freedom,and give no goverment that kind of power.Belize is not Cuba Mr. Barrow.

  15. Abe says:

    To: John Boy, Amanda and Beliezean: You all dont want this to be implemented because you already know your stinking involved with crime! Thats why your afraid! I have not one worry abot it because it wont affect me nor my children. Because I keep myself off limits to crime! If I get detained, I have done something that causes suspicion and therefore my arrest was imminent.

    Elgin: If the criminal can be kept for 30-40 days, by that time the defendant can equip himself with lawyers and self protection, doing all of this without fear of his life!!! So narrow minded man!

  16. Elgin Martinez says:

    Abe:Your argument is weak,I am going to ask you thesame question until you get it.”what happens when the suspect or suspects are released?”

  17. Abe says:

    Suspects are guilty 95% of the time, theres your answer smarty pants

  18. John Boy,Carson,Ca says:

    Abe, you do not even know who I am,yet you stated I am a criminal.I do not know you,but from your statement I know you are a fool.

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