In last year, when the Barrow Administration had called a state of emergency for Belize City, the then member of the opposition, Kareem Musa was very vocal on the need to respect human rights. Last Thursday however, Musa went down that very same road, after weeks of gang warfare left a number of persons dead. The SOE was enacted for ten communities in Belize City and sought to imprison a total of forty-three men that are alleged gangsters. Today, Minister Musa responded to the criticism of having no other option to stem the rise in crime than enacting a state of emergency.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “What we have to understand when we look at human rights is that there is a basic right to life that we have to observe even as human rights advocates. We see where the trend was going, the pattern, young men of killing one another and it really is a domino effect because the retaliation that is taking place as a result of one single murder it then amounts to about ten in two weeks. And so really we thought that it was necessary to hit the pause button. Like I said reluctantly so. We don’t want to have to resort to this but we have to at this time because we saw in May where I think there were ten murders that were gang related and early on in August we had about four or five and so we need to have these young men sit down so that we can all discuss. We can have intervention teams, counselors go in to try to sort out the differences with these young men because this is not something that any government would want to do but at the same time we have to protect our law abiding citizenry. A young man Cassman Gill was shot he’s a third form student and by all accounts an innocent bystander to have gotten the repercussions of this war, this gang warfare that is taking place in Belize City. We see where houses are now being burnt, there are threats of further arson and so this is really getting out of control and we have to at this point in time like I said we have to get these young men together to sit down to see what it is we can do to resolve this conflict.”
Musa says that while the men are locked up they will be partaking in gang interventions initiatives, but are still being investigated for several murders that led up to the SOE.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “All that we can do while they are detained is to intervene in a positive manner, to have them speak to on another, to dialogue, to communicate in a positive manner to see where the difference lie and to see if it is we can resolve this situation. Obviously once they come out in thirty days or sixty days if it is extended we have to look at – and I’m telling you this while they’re there investigations continue. The police investigations into these murders, into all the crimes taking place continue and so with the intelligence that is being gathered if charges can be laid against any of those individuals they will be laid but certainly the policing efforts will have to be ramped up and continued. Constant patrols in these crime ridden areas, we’ll have to continue upon the expiration of this SOE.”
Also commenting on the SOE was Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, who says that a total of forty men have been detained.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “As I said before that the state of emergency was not a cast net activity but rather one that would be targeted and so as the minister has said to me that while yes we support doing it that we must ensure that it is done based on intelligence. And so what we did was to gather of a list of those persons on whom we have credible information that they are involved and only those persons are being targeted. Those other persons who are out there and are doing their best to hold it down we continue to allow them to be out on the streets and live their lives the way they currently are but they must be reminded that the area is also declared and so if in the event they decide to do any nonsense then we will simply move at them with the SOE. But so far we have a total of forty persons in detention. There are still a few persons that we’re looking for and the officers remain active on the streets across the country pursuing those other individuals who are on the list.”