Attorney and Activist Lisa Shoman is calling out the Belize Defence Force on what has been perceived as an attempt to protect an accused rapist rather than the victim. As we reported yesterday, Brigadier General Steven Ortega stated that 35-year-old Margarito Pop would be placed on paid leave for a month or until the Security Services Commission meets to decide the Pop’s disciplinary charges, particularly interdiction. Shoman stated that that is not enough, and the matter should not have to wait until July to be determined.
Lisa Shoman, Attorney: “I can only imaging that it has to be an outrage to know that the high command of the BDF is more concerned about the welfare of Sergeant Margorito Pop than they are about the virtual complainant in this case. For him to not be interdicted right away, for them not to summon a commission to do that but instead choosing to wait until some time in July and put him on annual leave because apparently he’s uncomfortable being on base is completely and utterly outrageous and I think it is illustrative of the culture of toxic masculinity. The BDF cannot simply say “If you choose not to go to the police that’s your thing and if you come to us we’ll deal with it our way.” that is not sufficient. The BDF cannot be seen to be condoning crime, to be upholding crime and to be doing nothing about criminal offences committed in the BDF whether it is by instructors to recruits, whether it is by soldiers to another soldier, whether it is by an officer to another BDF person that cannot continue.”
Shoman also spoke about the leaked report detailing numerous complaints made by the recruits of intake #65. These reports including sexual harassment, physical abuse, and extortion. According to her, an investigation into the entire Force, and not just the training company, needs to be conducted.
Lisa Shoman, Attorney at Law: “And worse than that their complaints are not confidential. They’re not treated with the respect that they should be and the internal investigation done, this eleven page report makes it very clear. Of the eleven pages in the report six of them are a recounting of the different things said by the hundred recruits plus other witnesses and a lot of them point to thinks like extortion, the idea that the instructor can sell you contraband, assault, outrageous physical assault, hitting people with brooms, hitting you in the head and the chest and we are not concerned? This is only the training company you know so the BDF has to agree to a wider investigation of all companies in the BDF for us to get a full view and the extent of the rot, the institutional rot so that we can take steps to fix what the problem is.”
The allegation against Pop was that he visited the room of a 39-year-old female soldier after they were drinking and raped her. He was charged and taken to court on June 3. He is now out on a five thousand dollar bail.