A statutory instrument (S.I.) was signed that declared a State of Emergency in two portions on the south side of Belize City. The powers granted to the police means that they can detain people for seven days without cause or legal representation and as much as 30 days throughout the period. According to well-known Attorney, Audrey Matura Shepherd, the powers are sweeping and it is very concerning. Matura-Shepherd says it could have been curtailed when it was created to ensure that citizens of Belize in the area continued to possess some basic human rights.
Audrey Matura Shepherd Attorney: “What happened in those areas is that automatically your basic rights to have an attorney, not to be discriminated against, not to have your property taken, your right to privacy, your right to possession of property, not to be randomly searched and your premise entered. All those rights are going to be taken away, even your right to be discriminated against is removed and you can read that when you read Section 18 subsection 10 of the Constitution of Belize so knowing that you then have this absolute power; you know then it’s not something you take lightly, it’s not something you implement lightly and that’s where my concerns come because there is also a provision in the section at subsection 9 that says that the Governor General can make regulations or they make regulations to curtail this power or align what will happen. I never heard at that press conference that there has been any regulations to say within the context of section 18 what will or will not be done so remember I told you section 10 makes you takes away all these right but by subsection 9 you can say although the law allows me to do all of this I don’t need to do all of these right now. These are the rights that I am going to be dealing with. As of right now no regulations exist and if they do I have not seen it. I have asked on facebook for ACP WIlliams to tell me what are the regulations because you need to know the parameters of their power. I know at the press conference he said that…”
Jose Sanchez: “ He made some promises.”
Audrey Matura Shepherd Attorney: “He made some promises that yes but those aren’t regulations; those carry nothing when you think about what is happening. It all has to be in writing, it all has to be legal, it has to be documented. His words mean nothing and as you all have seen in a previous cases before by the Supreme Court where the Chief Justice said that words stated by the Prime Minister in the media were not binding etc. so we know that means nothing. If this state of public emergency is for one month it means that whoever you detain you can detain them without due process, without arraignment, without charges for a period of one month. The same section 18 also gives the power then to the government to go to the National Assembly and by resolution keep on increasing the amount of months. It could be initially a first two months but it can not go on beyond 12 months so it is possible that that state of emergency can be in place up to 12 months without the regulations; what that means that you can also be detinatiend for the period of the duration of that state of emergency.”