Belizean Man Plans to Sue Government Over SOE Violation

Belizean Man Plans to Sue Government Over SOE Violation

A Belize City man is gearing up to sue the government for what his attorney says was a violation of his constitutional rights during the recent State of Emergency (SOE). Defense attorney, Norman Rodriguez claims that his client, Alwyn Gonzalez, was sent to prison under the SOE without any evidence to prove he is a gang member. According to him, while Gonzalez has a criminal record, he has never been charged with gang-related offenses. The attorney further explained to Love News that the Constitution provides persons the right to reasonable facilities for private communication and consultation with a legal practitioner of choice. Rodriquez, however, was reportedly denied that right by persons at the Belize Central Prison, on Tuesday, when he requested to meet with his client. 

Norman Rodriguez, Attorney: “I went to the prison the day before yesterday and I had like seven clients to go see. I saw the first six then I noticed that there was a delay in Alwin Gonzalez being brought to me. When I asked the supervisor of the prison, he said he’s a supervisor, he entered and said “No no he can’t see him.” I said why? He said because _______________ and I say this with no fear because this is what was said to me and I have proof,  another attorney was with me. I said, sir you are not to deny the man the right to his attorney. The same constitution which allowed him to be remanded here also states that he must be provided with reasonable facilities to consult and meet with his attorney in private. They ignored me and they stood their ground. So I left. My issue is that you cannot create laws to try to curb crime and then you become someone who will break the law yourself because you may fall in. This is the fourth year consecutively that we’ve had a state of emergency for the same purpose. Now, and I think I heard the minister say yesterday that it was successful, but if you have to be doing the same thing- or it at least it achieved a level of success but if you have to be doing the same thing every year then it means that something is wrong. And in fact, the fact that we had like four people killed over the weekend, while the same people who are alleged to be involved in the activities that they want to curve, it’s happening. You cannot stop crime by employing one means or one medium or one way right and obviously this is not working because eventually you will have to be extending the state of emergency to the whole country possibly because the crimes are happening all over the place.”

The SOE was enacted to round up gang members believed to be involved in a feud that claimed the lives of several men. The Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, has previously stated that the lives of law-abiding citizens are not affected by the SOE. However, according to Rodriguez, provisions in the SOE could be weaponized and used to target persons in the SOE-declared area. 

Norman Rodriguez, Attorney: “I have to warn Belizeans, right? That I saw the interview by I believe the Commissioner and the minister and I believe they both mentioned or alluded to in the least suggested that the state of emergency is geared towards identifying and trying to put certain people in a position where they have to curb their criminal behavior. They said a handful I believe but the Belizean people must understand the state of emergency does not apply only to those people. Because if you go to section 3 it says that anyone who loiters, congregates I believe, drinks, that they fall within that emergency area and the police has the authority to stop and detain and any person who is detained under that state of emergency can be put in prison, they can be fingerprinted, they can be profiled by the taking of photos and it is lawful because what the same statutory instrument states that you don’t have a right to bail, the court does not have the authority to entertain an application for bail. And even more, the application for the writ of habeas corpus. So your total right to liberty is taken away from you and people must understand, right? We cannot just sit by and allow the powers that be to continue to use these things against us. Because eventually, when they want to make it extended to you and me and every other Belizean who are not into criminal activities they will be able to do so.”

The SOE regulations expire on Friday.

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