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Attorney General updates the media on trip

Earlier this month, Belize participated in a Human Trafficking Seminar in Washington D.C. Minister of Human Development, Anthony Martinez and Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte represented the country. Both men met with the Deputy Attorney General for the US Department of Justice Rod Rosenstein and discussed the partnership between both countries to halt human trafficking.  The Attorney General briefed the media about what came out of that trip.

Michael Peyrefitte – Attorney General

“What that Institute does is to get countries off that tier three ranking. And so he was kind enough, Mr. John Richmond, set up meetings with several people within the US Government structure. We met with the Deputy Attorney General, we met with Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, the FBI. The most important meeting though was with the State Department because they are the ones who craft the report based on the information that they get here in Belize. We have committed, as I briefed Cabinet, Cabinet has okayed some of the things suggested by the Human Institute. We are going to have one prosecutor in the DPP’s office who wil focus, that prosecutor will be the only person to focus on human trafficking cases; we will have a Supreme Court judge that will be the human trafficking judge, we will have a human trafficking department within the Police Department, starting with a couple officers. Those steps that we will take will start to develop a structure that will demonstrate that we are serious about human trafficking.”

He added that he tried to convince the state department that Belize does not have as many cases of Human Trafficking as they believe we have.

Michael Peyrefitte – Attorney General

“What they want to see are figures, they want to see arrests, they want to see convictions. I told them that I don’t know how it is the US but in Belize a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty and we don’t arrest people unless we have evidence. We cannot be arresting people in a small society, damaging people’s reputation when we have no evidence because you never get over that stigma of being arrested for anything that appears to be a sex crime or a human trafficking crime. Of course we do not legislate convictions. The Attorney General does not have the authority and should not have the authority to tell a judge to convict or not convict, that is for the judiciary. We have separate functions. I tried to tell that we have to see each others as partners and we should not be treated like little children because we are country to country, we are trying to help. We would never support human trafficking but when you come to do an assessment on Belize, and you are gathering information, check with the Government, ask us too for information. They go around asking different non functioning NGOs and with that we said we did not even verify the information to see if it is correct. You are talking about corruption, you are talking about government officials and I am asking them who, name them. I will take it back and we can deal with those people.”

Martinez and Peyrefitte will also meet with officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the Trafficking in Persons Office of the State Department.