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The US has released its 2020 Human Rights Report on Belize

The US Department of State has released its 2020 Human Rights Report on Belize and on page twelve it talks about financial disclosure among public officers. The report stresses that the law requires public officials to submit annual financial disclosure statements, which the Integrity Commission reviews. However it also says that at the same time, the constitution allows authorities to prohibit citizens from questioning the validity of such statements. And if anyone does then that person is subject to a moderate fine, three years’ imprisonment, or both. The US Human Rights Reports found that many public officials did not submit annual financial disclosure statements and suffered no repercussions. As of July only 28 percent of government members required to declare their assets to the Integrity Commission had done so for 2019-20. In accordance with the law, a report was also sent to the director of public prosecution for further action, but as of October no actions had been taken. The report also noted that under the previous administration, the Integrity Commission was compromised by scandal, as the commission’s chairperson, Nestor Vasquez, was dismissed following credible accusations of corruption, impunity, transfer of government assets to private ownership, and nepotism. In July the opposition and majority of the independent senators objected to the reinstating of Deshawn Arzu-Torres as chair of the Integrity Commission for another two years. Senators raised the concern that Arzu-Torres had unsatisfactorily fulfilled her responsibilities and failed to produce reports to the National Assembly. Despite the objections, the National Assembly approved her reappointment. The US State Department’s Human Rights Report also says that (quote) “There was a report that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.” (unquote) The report first highlights the death of Ulysease Roca, a gay man who was ridiculed by police officers and beaten while in police custody in April 2020. A distraught Roca, in a video, alleged that while he was in custody, police harassed and bullied him because of his sexuality and hit him in the face. He later died and his family believes that it was due to an infection to one of his injuries but the commissioner of police stated the cause of death was a result of HIV and AIDS complications. Then there was the case of Allyson Major Junior who was shot and killed by a police officer in 2019. Corporal Kent Martinez was charged with manslaughter for the incident, and BPD officials announced they would investigate. The Human Rights Report also speaks off torture and states that , 55 percent of the complaints received by the Office of the Ombudsman were filed against the BDP for abuse of power, harassment, brutality, arbitrary search and entry, and unlawful imprisonment. The reports says that there continued to be reports of harsh conditions in the Belize Central Prison and police detention center due to inadequate sanitation procedures. The report speaks of a 2017 case of a man who was raped in prison twice. The report also highlights that arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention remain an issue. It says that Police must bring a detainee before a magistrate to be charged officially within 48 hours. The BPD faced allegations that its members arbitrarily detained persons for more than 24 hours without charge, did not take detainees directly to a police station, and used detention as a means of intimidation.