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Sep 6, 2018

Human Rights Commission of Belize Concerned Over State of Emergency

Kevin Arthurs

In October 2011, Prime Minister Dean Barrow introduced, but retracted a bill on preventative detention due to public outcry.  It was seen as too draconian a measure and at the time the government vowed not to bring it back. Since the state of public emergency was declared, the Human Rights Commission of Belize is among the first to express concern over the arbitrary incarceration of residents of the Old Capital. The Commission says that the extraordinary emergency provisions amounts to the suspension of their fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Attorney and Vice President of the Human Rights Commission, Kevin Arthurs explains.


Kevin Arthurs, Vice President, Human Rights Commission of Belize

“The only thing we’ve had to justify a hundred people and I want that to sink in…a hundred young men have been detained, they have not been told why they have been detained and we have an admission by the authorities that twenty-five percent of them should not be there; oops. A lot of times we look at things in the extreme and we say listen well bad man di get lock up. We have an admission from the police that we have it twenty-five percent wrong. So we have to make sure there is a big cast net and it is an absolute power. You do not want to give absolute power to any authority—whether that is to the police, a politician or anyone. And so we have to assess what we are doing. There are three sections, in section eighteen that gives you when a declaration should be made. The first under section eighteen one is where Belize is engaged in war. The third is where the national assembly passes a resolution to say that there is some threat of subversion, somebody is trying to take over the government, for example. It is interesting that for the third one, you need a two-thirds majority to get a proclamation passed. That tells you how important it is and how difficult it is to get it done because they know the dangers of the powers that come along with it. The second one is where we are now, a proclamation by the Governor General that there is a state of emergency. Now that proclamation, the last time we saw it was 1981 where there were riots. We had riots in 2005 and there was no proclamation made, we had the George Street murders, a quadruple murder and we had significant panic and there was none done there under this Act.”

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