Belize Defence Force Senior Officer Charged with Grievous Harm in Domestic Dispute

Belize Defence Force Senior Officer Charged with Grievous Harm in Domestic Dispute

A senior soldier in the Belize Defence Force (BDF) was arraigned in court this afternoon on a charge of grievous harm.  The charge stems from an incident in March where Lieutenant Colonel Omar Tzalam reportedly broke his wife’s arm during a domestic dispute.  Tzalam pleaded not guilty to the charge and granted a signed bail in the Punta Gorda Magistrates’ Court.  The incident comes at the end of Women’s Month when gender-based violence is at centre stage.  Love News understands that Tzalam was recently charged internally with the BDF for assault.  The allegations of assault against a female soldier were brought before an investigative committee.  Just last month, the committee forwarded its recommendations to the Security Services Commission and is now awaiting a response.  Interestingly, Tzalam was recently given command of the BDF Volunteer Battalion which has only ever been held by a volunteer, and not a regular force soldier. While the command of the BDF has declined an interview on this matter, the President of the National Women’s Commission, Thea Garcia-Ramirez did not shy away from condemning this and all acts of domestic violence.

Thea Garcia – Ramirez, President, National Women’s Commission: “In this case I will tell you that my personal opinion and that of the National Women’s Commission are in sync in that we have to have no tolerance for domestic violence and gender based violence at any point in time. It’s never okay. There is no justification for it. There is no excuse for it and I stand by that and I know that I speak for all thirteen commissioners, I speak for the secretariat when we say that that is the position and the stance of the National Women’s Commission. I believe that it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what position you hold and I believe that people in positions of leadership, people in the public eye, people who are in the public domain they should be held to a higher standard.”

Garcia-Ramirez acknowledges that getting out of an abusive relationship is difficult, it is possible.  She urges all victims to seek help before reaching a point of no return.

Thea Garcia – Ramirez, President, National Women’s Commission: “I urge anybody who is the victim of gender based violence or domestic violence to report it. Report it to the police. It is hard, I know and it is a fact again that people living in these situations of domestic abuse and gender based violence on average it takes them eight tries or eight times that they leave and go back before they finally break free and leave for good. Only the luckiest make it out alive. A lot of times in that back and forth they lose their lives. The one thing that I can say about violence within the home is that it always escalates. Each time that it happens it gets worse. There are limited but we do have social safety nets and those can be accessed through the police, through the women’s department in each district and there are safe houses.”

Tzalam, who is brother to the Governor General, is scheduled to return to court in 30 days.

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