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Jan 29, 2019

HRCB condemns unsanitary conditions of “piss house”

The Human Rights Commission of Belize is lashing out at the deplorable conditions of the holding cells including the toilets at police stations in Belize City. According to the H.R.C.B., a few years ago when the first images were circulated, they drew widespread condemnation because they were unsanitary and were in no way a hygienic space for humans to be held. The Commission then lobbied and with the support of the Chief Justice and then Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie, about two years ago they were able to establish guidelines under which persons were interviewed and treated under police detention. But fast forward to 2019, the problem still persists and images surfaced on Facebook posted by Darrel Usher, a cop who expressed alarm at the conditions saying “this is how the people of the Southside are being treated while in detention.” Usher added that he was there for two nights and this is where he had to eat and could not sleep because the cell was getting full of water due to the overflow or backing up of the waste systems. Today Arthurs explained the Commission’s position on the matter and what they have done to try to remedy the issue over the years.


Kevin Arthurs, Human Rights Commission, Belize

Kevin Arthurs

“We are disappointed. We received reports, very compelling reports of the deteriorating conditions at the Queen Street Police Station lockup and the bathroom there. We received a report from a gentleman who was detained there for two days and his complaint on social media, which is the new battleground to voice complaints, was that he was made to use these facilities and he was made to share the evidence of it. We did a bit of background check to verify what his complaint was and we were very disappointed that it was indeed true. If you will recall back in November of 2014, stand-alone and firebrand activist Yaya Marin Coleman started the movement to get some decency and dignity into the holding lockup cell. Following that, the Human Rights Commission joined on and we were able to get some cooperation between the Chief Justice and the then Commissioner of Police. We were able to sit down and hammer out some guidelines; the guidelines for the interviewing and treatment of persons in detention.  Yaya continued her protest and we were able to pass those guidelines and they were promulgated in May 2015 and came into force in January 2016. Those guidelines are very clear – rules 13.2 and 13.3 which is just a restatement of the basic and minimum human condition should be. It should not be up for debate or an issue which is overlooked of you being able to use the bathroom. That, in our opinion, should go without questions. The top brass of the police were equally disgusted with the conditions and had undertaken to maintain at least a minimum standard. They had indicated that they were cash strapped but that was 2014. We would have thought that by now there would have been some follow up. At that point in time, we had also made some recommendations on how to maintain it and this is a live situation and some prisoners would almost damage it on purpose.  But these are issues of management and you don’t want some of the persons who are probably innocent and held in the facilities to be subject to this. And imagine the stench coming from this facility that police officers have to go through. This is not a reflection of what we as a society find to be the minimum basic requirements guaranteed to all persons no matter who they are.”

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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