Mark Seawell is suing the Government of Belize for unlawful imprisonment. He was jailed for since 2007 on an extradition request from the United States Government. He was accused of importing drugs into the US in the mid-1990s. His extradition case begun in 2011. Seawell filed for a writ of habeas corpus in the same year but it was not until 2017 that his application was heard by the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin. Seawell was released. Seawell is suing for damages. His attorney is Anthony Sylvestre sat down with Reporter Hipolito Novelo.
Mark Seawell: “I’m just grateful to be free.”
Reporter: What will be the first thing you will do when you get home.
Reporter: What has been the thing that has been on your mind the entire time?
Mark Seawell: “Freedom.”
Excited to be free, Mark Seawell would not stop to take questions from reporters. That day, on April 6 2017, Seawell was set free after the Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, granted his writ of habeas corpus application.
Anthony Sylvester, Attorney for Seawell: “Habeas Corpus is basically an order of court for them to release someone who there is no legal justification for that person to be held or detained.”
He spent more than ten years at the Belize Central Prison. Why? Because the United States Government wanted Seawell to be extradited in order to face serious drug related offences which they alleged he committed in the mid-1990s.
Anthony Sylvester, Attorney for Seawell: “As way back as in 2006 there were extradition proceedings that were initially commenced against him and then 2011 those extradition proceedings concluded in the Magistrate’s court and in the Magistrate’s court what occurred was that the Chief Magistrate who presided over the matter made an order for him to be committed pending certain actions to be taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
What followed thereafter is that Seawell filed a habeas corpus application, seeking that legal reasons why he should continue in detention. it was not until 2017 that his application was heard by the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin. The Chief Justice found that the then Chief Magistrate, Margaret McKenzie, erred with regards to the procedures for Seawell’s committal warrant.
Now he is the Superintendent of Prisons and the Attorney General for damages and compensation.
Anthony Sylvester, Attorney for Seawell: “We have now sought to do is that we have now sought to bring a claim for damages or compensation and the claim is based centrally on the court order. The order says that he was unlawfully being detained and so we are now claiming damages or compensation for that period of time for which Mr.Seawell would have been incarcerated. It’s calculated to be in excess of 2,376 days. Now of course from the perspective of the government and the superintendent of the prison the claim may seem to be unreasonable; their response would be what else they could have done but have him be detained. But when looked at from the perspective of Mr.Seawell he was unlawfully detained for this inordinate period of time and so it cannot be right to simply say ‘oh well we were just holding you based on a court order.’ and so it’s a very interesting legal point which will be argued before the Supreme Court.”
Arguments will be heard by Justice Shona Griffith at the end of this month. Reporting for Love News, I am Hipolito Novelo.
The government has filed an application to have the claim struck out.