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Toledo Alcalde Association Congratulates DPP on Decision of the Santa Cruz 13 Case

Yesterday the case against the thirteen Santa Cruz villagers was discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Punta Gorda Magistrates’ Court by Chief Magistrate Anne Marie Smith.  On the heels of the discontinuation, the Toledo Alcalde Association issued a release stating, quote, “This morning the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the charges against the Santa Cruz 13. The Director also confirmed the state had, ‘no intention to lay charges against the accused in the future’.  The Maya Leaders Alliance welcomes this decision and congratulates the Director for acknowledging  the innocence of the 13 accused who, along with their families, suffered incalculable hardships as a result of their arrest and prosecution. This was never a case about the difference between Belizean and Maya customary law. This was always a case about the constitutional rights of poor people in Belize and whether or not officials would respect the rule of law. Today’s decision is a victory for everyone who finds themselves on the right side of the law, but the wrong end of an access to justice problem.  While Mr. Myles’ actions were wrong, it is important to note the CCJ order did not take away rights from other citizens in Belize. What the CCJ order did was to place additional responsibilities on citizens, government, and private companies to consult with and obtain on-going consent from Maya villages, before engaging in any activities in any village.  The requirement for consent is not a new idea in Belize. It is similar to the protections given to lease holders, into whose homes third party’s cannot enter or remain without permission.  The land right cases lay the foundation for a renewed relationship between us all. It is the earnest hope of the Maya people that we can recognize our differences in a way that brings us closer together, and in so doing, build a more beautiful future for all Belizeans.”  End of quote.  The case against Rupert Miles came about in June 2015 when he had begun construction on Maya lands.