US Government releases 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Belize
The US Government has released its 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Belize. The twenty-nine-page report speaks a lot of what has been reported in the press over the past year. It also makes pointed allegations against the government of Belize and the security forces like the Belize Police Department. Significant human rights issues included credible reports of abuse and inhuman treatment by security and prison officers; arbitrary arrests and detentions; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face threats to their lives and freedom; serious corruption by government officials; and substantial barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services. Section one of the report states that there were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The report cites victim Derrick Uh, who died in a police van, and the conviction of three police officers who were found guilty of beating Edwin Ixpatac to death in 2016. The report also states that the Professional Standards Branch registered 69 formal complaints against members of the BPD and concluded 17 investigations with recommendations. Complaints ranged from wounding, discharging a firearm in public, extortion, and theft to harassment, preventing the course of justice, and child rape. The BPD dismissed two officers after internal tribunals found them guilty of offenses that ranged from excessive absences to physical abuse. As for media censorship, the report found that the government did not penalize those who published items contrary to government guidelines or directly censor media outlets. Anecdotal accounts, however, indicated that some media outlets practiced self-censorship to appease certain politicians and powerful businesspersons who patronized the publications.