Yesterday, the Senate ratified five motions during its meeting in Belmopan. A resolution was passed authorizing Belize to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Motion 2015. Through this, Belize is committing that it will effectively address issues concerns the convention and allow, without restriction, an independent body access to a number of people who believe they are being deprive of their liberty and being treated cruelly by the state.
Godwin Hulse, Leader of Government Business
“Mr. President, I move as whereas the optional protocol against the torture and other cruel inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment hereinafter called the protocol entered into force on the twenty second June two thousand six and whereas the objective of the protocol is to establish a system of regular visits undertaken by Independent, National and International bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty in order to prevent torture and other inhuman and cruel or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Lisa Soman, PUP Senator
“This is not for a situation where one citizen deprives another citizen of liberty, this is about the state. Specifically then it is about how Belize keeps people detained and incarcerated. This is important and critical because there have been too many times in our nation’s history where persons are either detained or imprisoned, while in the custody of either the prison administration or detention centers in police stations have lost their lives, in fact no, I take it back, have been killed, and have died. You don’t lose your life; it is taken from you in those situations. It makes it clear under article fifteen that no authority or official shall order, apply, permit or tolerate any sanction against any person who speaks out about abuses, cruelty, torture in places where liberty is deprived. None of us should forget Mr. Sotz, young Hilberto Sotz who died in a police station in Caye Caulker. None of us should forget that there have been persons who have come out of the prison system to speak out about the conditions in those systems. This is the type of initiative that will place obligations on our state and that will have real implications.”
The second motion that was ratified deals with the acceptance by Belize of the Protocol Amending the Marrakesh Agreement, Establishing the World Trade Organization, 2015. One of the points that Opposition Senator, Lisa Shoman, brought up was the fact that much of the papers handed to the Senators do not come with an explanation or a brief summary of what the motion is all about.
Lisa Shoman, PUP Senator
“I keep saying Mr. President and I do hope that one day I hope to be heard that it would be good when these things come to us in the Senate that we be provided with either an explanation note or the same courtesy of debriefing notes that cabinet gets when it considers these matters. There is absolutely no excuse or reason why the executive should be given more privilege than the legislature when it comes to these matters and so Mr. President, I will not and I cannot in good conscience continue to just simply dignify my acceptance of these things even if they are important, even if they are necessary, without being given, the benefit of a full explanation because Mr. President, one of the things that is clear in almost all of these conventions is that they have deep implications for our national law and a lot of time Mr. President, they place heavy implications on us a country for reporting . The next thing you know either we don’t report or we don’t provide the information or we skip a step or we don’t do something and the country is showed up in the international stage as ignoring a convention which it has ratified. I am not in favor of that. I am not in favor of our continuing to just stand up and just say aye or sometimes nothing at all and these things pass.”
Godwin Hulse – Leader of Government Business
“ As the honorable senator pointed out, we have provided and in a timely manner the protocol itself. The issue is that the briefing note she refers to from time immemorial have not been forthcoming to either government or from either government in the format but we can change that so I have taken the time myself to read it and as she says we are familiar with it. I trust other senators have done that but so noted.”
Both motions now go to the Foreign Affairs committee for examination, consideration and report.