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Apr 3, 2003

Judiciary adopts code of ethics

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In a landmark move for the Caribbean, the Belize judiciary has become one of the first countries in the region to voluntarily design and adopt a code of conduct for its judges and magistrates. The document specifies approximately sixty do’s and don’ts for those on the bench. Among them are rules such as:

“A judge shall avoid close personal association with individual members of the legal profession, particularly those who practice in the judge’s court, where such association might reasonably give rise to the suspicion or appearance of favouritism or partiality.”

“A judge shall refrain from membership in political parties; political fundraising; attendance at political gatherings and political fundraising events; contribution to political parties or campaigns; and taking part publicly in controversial discussions of a partisan political character.”

“A judge and members of the judge’s family shall neither ask for, nor accept any gift, bequest, loan or favour in relation to anything done or to be done or omitted to be done by the judge in connection with the performance of judicial duties.”

This morning the code was formally presented by the Chief Justice of Belize, Dr. Abdulai Conteh, flanked by the Attorney General, Godfrey Smith, Chief Magistrate Herbert Lord and President of the Bar Association, Edwin Flowers. Both the C.J. and the A.G. emphasized that the regulations are at the heart of promoting a transparent, independent, but human judiciary.

Abdulai Conteh, Chief Justice

“Mercifully, I think for all our sake, judges are not from Mars or Venus. We are all on planet earth; we are all human being, subject to human frailties and susceptibilities. We all are. The odd misbehaviour, like they say you must allow the dog a bite. I think every dog is allowed a bite, but don’t make it a habit or you’ll be put down. So a judge will have the cocktail party, gets drunk, he likes to bend his elbow, but if he doesn’t do it frequently. If he does it frequently, he is improper to be a judicial officer. You’ve heard the expression sober as a judge.”

Godfrey Smith, Attorney General

“The publication of this code of conduct to the media, to the world at large, really holds the judges feet to the fire. Everybody will now know how it is a judge comport himself, should behave. A judge is now made aware that his behaviour on and off the bench is a matter of public scrutiny and hopefully it all inures to greater transparency and greater confidence in the judicial system.”

The full Code of Judicial Conduct and Etiquette is available at the government website. That address is

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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