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Aug 23, 2023

Do Persons Rounded Up Under S.O.E Lose the Right To An Attorney?

Norman Rodriguez

In recent years, we’ve seen a number of states of emergency declared where suspected gang members are rounded up and held in custody at the Belize Central Prison for a period of time. Often times, it is done to suppress the level of street violence when it spirals out of control. But while these individuals are held in prison for crime prevention, do they also lose the right to see an attorney? Such was the case with one man who claims that he was denied the right to meet with his lawyer when he got picked up. Attorney Norman Rodriguez told News Five today that when he went to visit one particular client, Alwyn Gonzalez, at the prison facility recently, he was denied access on grounds that the S.O.E suspends Gonzalez’s right to see his attorney.


Norman Rodriguez, Attorney for Alwyn Gonzalez

“As usual, as the attorneys would do, I went to the prison to try to see my clients. I was out of the country for a few days, right, and I asked to see Alwin Gonzalez, who is remanded under the State of Emergency S.I., S.I. Number 80 of 2023. And I saw all the other clients and when it was time for me to see Alwyn Gonzalez, I noticed that there was a delay. So I asked the officer, what’s the problem? And he said that he’s under the State of Emergency and he’s denied that right. I don’t know if there is a high authority at the prison who decides these things and whom doesn’t seem to understand the law.”


Marion Ali

“What does the law say?”


Norman Rodriguez

“I know that the S.I. for the State of Emergency arose out of – under Section 18-1 of the Constitution of Belize, and while it takes away liberty, while it suspends the right to liberty, it does not suspend the other rights guaranteed and protected under the Constitution of Belize. In fact, under the same section, it states that the person who is detained under the State of Emergency is to have private access to his attorney, so it confuses me now. Sadly, the State of Emergency is about to end I think on Sunday, right, or Friday, whichever day it is. However, that does not stop me from exploring whether my client’s rights have been breached beyond the State of Emergency.”


Marion Ali

“If you find out even after the S.O.E is lifted or expires, that his rights have been breached, what will be the next step? Can you take that further?”


Norman Rodriquez

“Well, you see, there is an application that we can make. Oh, I mean, the time being so short, we don’t know how that will pan out. And when we make application to the court, for example, the application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, we are able to ask the court to grant other remedies where the rights may have been breached. And that is what we will explore. But Marion, I know that you said that you wanted to focus on Alvin Gonzales, but I have to say this because it benefits the society. The society is of the belief that it is only this handful of young men or women who are being targeted and maybe justifiably so in the eyes of those who created this S.I. But the sad part is that if you read through that S.I., you will see that it does not only suspend the rights of those people. It says that the police have certain rights to go into people’s homes, to deny people even the right of association to gather. So you and I, if we should be in those areas and there’s a police (officer) who wants to target me and you, we’re not safe from them.”

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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