The US State Department has released its 2017 human rights report. So how did Belize do? Here is Dalila Ical.
DALILA ICAL REPORTING:
According to the State Department’s report, the areas of particular interest for Belize include quote, “allegations of unlawful killings by security officers, which the authorities investigated and prosecuted; allegations of corruption by government agents; allegations that several killings were motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity; trafficking in persons; and child labor,” end of quote. The report goes on to say that government prosecuted public officials, administratively and through the courts in some cases but with little successful prosecutions. It adds that quote, “while some lower-ranking officials faced disciplinary action and/or criminal charges, higher-ranking officials were less likely to face punishment, resulting in a perception of impunity,” end of quote. Getting a little into details, the report indicates that the Ombudsman’s Office received 32 new complaints of police overreach in the first six months of 2017. The most common complaint was police abuse, and there was an increase in complaints against the Immigration and Nationality Department. When looking at prison and detention center conditions, there were no complaints filed. The report also indicates that there were reports of impunity involving security forces such as police brutality and corruption, the latter being primarily extortion. The report says that government often ignored reports of police abuse, delayed action, failed to take disciplinary action or transferred accused officers within the department. Furthermore, the Professional Standards Branch of the Department received 59 formal complaints of police brutality as of October 2017. Forty-four of these officers were placed on interdiction or suspension. When looking at arrest procedures and treatment of detainees, the report states that there were many cases that saw lengthy backlogs, particularly for serious crimes like murder. It states, quote, “as of September 27, there were 491 prisoners on remand at the Belize Central Prison. Problems included police delays in completing investigations, lack of evidence collection, court delays in preparing depositions, and adjournments in the courts,” end of quote. It adds that judges were occasionally slow to pass on rulings, taking over a year or longer. Turning to corruption and lack of transparency in government, the report highlighted that there were numerous allegations of corruption among public officials, including ministers, chief executive officers, and deputy ministers, although no substantial proof was presented in most cases. Although fewer than in previous years, the Ombudsman’s Office received allegations of corruption against the Lands and Surveys Department in the Ministry of Natural Resources for illegally distributing lands to party associates. The report also looked at other areas such as respect for civil liberties, discrimination, societal abuses, and trafficking in persons, and worker rights.