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What is the status of the detained men at prison?

The status of men who were detained is still undefined. They have not been charged with a crime and according to some it is simply a form of preventative detention.  They have since been sent to the Belize Central Prison. According to Audrey Matura Shepherd, this is all being done without any respect for their constitutional rights.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Attorney: “It’s like the Commissioner of Police Allen Wylie said in relation to the police officer who was found near the plane who is related to his wife;  he said that police officer is innocent until proven guilty conveniently but then why can’t we say that these alleged criminals are innocent until proven guilty too? It’s a double standard that is being applied. The prison act provides for detained and convicted people, you know those on remand, but there is no provision for these guys because they are not convicted and they are definitely not on remand. There have been no charges against them they are just being held preventatively because this is really – as I keep saying – preventative detention and being that the prison act doesn’t make provision for these non categorized persons the only option he has to do is treat them as though they are on remand because there is no conviction and if he has any doubt he has to go by the international standards and there are international standards as to the right of people in prison. So one of the key questions I wanted to know is who will decide what happens to them there? Can, under this act, the minister instruct him not to allow these people to have visitors and curtail any privilege that you would normally get at prison even though they have not been convicted and nor are they being charged. That would be interesting to note because as the law stands the superintendent of prison makes the regulations or has the say but can the minister come and trump that now I think he can but will he do it I don’t know. In the meantime I submit that the proper thing to do is give them the basic visitation like everybody else because you don’t have any order that says that they are convicted or they are on remand, you are just being asked to hold them and detain them for a period of time.”

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams responded to charges of the men’s constitutional rights being abused.

DCP Chester Williams: “Luckily I went to the same law school as they did. That is the good thing and I will agree that several attorneys are against it. I think that just a few, very few; for the most part I believe that the Bar Association issued a statement and they have said in their statement that they stand in solidarity with the law enforcement which means that they support what we are doing and I would associate myself with the statement of the Bar Association in that we must ensure that we do this the right way so as not to infringe on the rights of the ordinary law abiding citizens and we have been doing our best to ensure that does not occur so if you should be hearing any attorney out there saying oh the Police will come and lock you down whether you are involved or not. I want tell the Belizean people do not be distracted by those noise in the corner who want to be heard but to go by what we have been saying. We have told the Belizean people what it is that we are trying to achieve and we are not going to divert from the course we are going. We know the people we are looking for, we know the people that we are after and those are the persons that we are after. Any law abiding citizen having nothing to fear where the state of public emergency is concerned because it is not our intention to go after anybody who is not involved in crime or gang activities.”

Williams explained that they managed to lessen the number of persons who were eventually sent to Prison.

DCP Chester Williams: “We have a total of 40 persons who were taken to Kolbe Foundation yesterday in respect of the state of public emergency. All the persons we had in custody have been dealt with and referred over to prison. Those persons who were not taken were released because of the fact that after we have sieved out the list and those are the persons who remain.”