House of Representatives discuss Extradition Bill
In other legislative matters, Members of the House of Representatives examined the Extradition Bill, of 2023. In essence, the spirit of the bill is to make clear the parameters under which extraditions take place and to ensure that the procedures are easy to understand. However, the Leader of the Opposition, Moses “Shyne” Barrow was not entirely convinced. Instead, he felt that this was just another example of the Government extending the powers of ministers.
Hon. Moses Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “Ensuring that those who should be extradited to face justice are extradited is not my issue but the issue that I along with my colleagues in the opposition have is the type of ministerial overreach in this bill Madam Speaker and again this from an administration that passed a motion and made a Plan Belize promise that they would scale back on ministerial powers Madam Speaker. But when you go through this bill as we have in opposition and I have to highlight to the Belizean people when the member from Cayo South talks about a fake, there is no faker administration than this. They say curtail ministerial powers. Give the power to the people and the ministers won’t be in charge and they can’t do what they want and you look at this extradition bil which again you support on the face that people should face justice, it should not be harder to get someone where they need to be to face justice but the powers that this extradition bill gives to the minister is shocking. I know that the member from Fort George just came back from Cuba and he said that he was getting tutored by the communist but again this is Belize, this is not a communist regime this is democracy. The powers that they’re giving here now to the minister Madam Speaker in section 2 for instance Madam Speaker it says “any authority to proceed as ordered issued by minister pursuant to request for surrender.” Why is the minister deciding these matters, Madam Speaker ? That’s why we have a judiciary. The Legislature and the Judiciary are separate branches and they should remain so. The Minister should not be determining who will be detained, who qualifies to get extradited Madam Speaker that is a role for the Judiciary.“
In response, the Minister of Education and Freetown Area Representative, Francis Fonseca said that this bill addresses a critical issue of appeal, one that did not exist before now.
Hon. Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “First I think he said he supported the bill. He used the bill then to engage in a long diatribe about ministerial discretion which so but he supported the bill so we appreciate the support of the bill. Let me say that the bill, the extradition act that we currently have in place is absolutely archaic. This new bill and I said this when I introduced the bill is modeled off the Grenada extradition regime and that model that Grenadian model is really viewed by CARICOM and by the Commonwealth as really a very progressive model in terms of extradition law. So we should have absolutely no – there should be no confusion about the fact that what we’re doing is a huge upgrade in terms of the existing extradition law. The member talked about ministerial discretion well extradition law requires that you have a competent authority in your jurisdiction. That competent authority has to lie in someone in the case of every country it lies within the US with the Secretary of State, in the Commonwealth and in CARICOM with the Minister of Foreign Affairs some cases it lies with the Minister of Justice or Attorney General in some jurisdictions, you have to have a competent authority so it can’t be any you know board or group of people there has to be and that’s for purposes of ensuring that there is a clear if you like record you’re dealing with people’s fundamental rights so there must be a clear record and so that competent authority is important. What very importantly the Leader of the Opposition should know very important that this bill, the current act for example, does not contain any right of appeal, that has been a big source of problems so you talk about us oh the minister taking away power, that’s completely wrong headed. It’s the opposite. This bill is now introducing for the first time in terms of our extradition law a right of appeal for the first time so in fact you’re strengthening the rights of individuals who may fall under this law.”