Belize’s answers did not meet the expectations of the Committee
Human Rights Committee's 124th session - October 2018
The review of Belize’s Initial Report by the Human Rights Committee. Photo credit: CCPR-Centre.
On 15 and 16 October 2018 the Human Rights Committee reviewed Belize’s Initial Report in Geneva. The State delegation of Belize opened the session by expressing their eagerness to engage in constructive dialogue. They acknowledged their tardiness regarding the cooperation process, and justified it by stating it was because of Belize’s lack of resources. The main themes during the dialogue included violence against women; discrimination of LGBTI community; death penalty; pre-trial detention and police misconduct; criminalisation of immigrants and refugees and the rights of children.
The webcast is available here : part 1 & part 2
""Like many other countries, the death penalty is part of Belize’s laws – but has not been implemented for almost 30 years". "
Violence against Women
Photini Pazartzis, member of the Committee, raised concerns over the high volume of cases of violence against women, including domestic violence,as well as the increase in instances of femicide. Concern was also expressed over the fact that 70% of victims of violence withdraw their case when it goes to court proceedings. The delegation stated that measures were being taken such
Discrimination of LGBTI Community
When asked about measures taken to protect the LGBTI community from discrimination, including hate speech, the delegation assured the Committee there were effective national responses in place, such as the possibility to file a case. However, they also asked what should be considered as “hate speech” and stressed that citizens have the right to expression, too. This response concerned the Committee, in which it asked if the delegation believed this was not indeed an issue, despite numerous reports.
Death Penalty and Right to Life
Committee member, Marcia Kran, raised the issue of the death penalty, to which the delegation responded, that just like many countries, the death penalty is part of Belize’s law, although it has not been used in 30 years. Kran replied by saying if 1985 was the last time someone was sentenced to death, that those were indeed grounds to abolish the death penalty and ratify Optional Protocol 2.
Pre-trial detention and Police Misconduct
Conditions in prisons, prolonged pre-trial detention and police misconductwere among other prominent issues raised. The State delegation explained measures taken to combat these problems, such as implementing regional officers who are responsible for ensuring police behaviour is in compliance with the law and moving the Professional Standards Branch (PSB) to independent locations, to avoid intimidation by police in situations of cases against police.
Criminalisation of Immigrants and Refugees
The criminalisation of immigrants, and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers were strong themes throughout the session. This included counts of the detention of immigrants, the criminalisation of asylum seekers, and the issue with the 14-day policy in which refugees and asylum seekers have to apply for refugee status before they are excluded from the status bracket, even in cases of unaccompanied minors. The State delegation affirmed they were unaware of the criminalisation of asylum seekers, including children, and assured the Committee that there is a monthly meeting to consider asylum seekers applications.
Rights of Children
Margo Waterval expressed concern, regarding the rights of children in Belize. She commended the State for their progress regarding birth registration, but asked for more information concerning measures taken to prevent early and forced marriage, as well as to investigate child abuse. The state responded that the legal age of marriage had been raised from 14 to 16, and that it requires the consent of a parent.
In the closing statement, the Chairperson, Ahmed Amin Fathalla, expressed the Committee’s appreciation for the information provided but had concerns with the inadequacy of many of the answers.
Recommendations of the Human Rights Committee
By 2 November 2020, the State party should provide information on the following recommendations from the Committee's Concluding Observations:
Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- Repeal section 53 of the Criminal Code and decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults
- Reject any form of social stigmatization, discrimination and violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity
- Combat hate speech by public or private persons targeting LGBTI individuals
- Remove any barriers to the enjoyment of rights by LGBTI individuals
- Facilitate access to justice by victims of harassment, violence and police abuses
- Strengthen trust between LGBTI individuals and State authorities
- Increase the financial and human resources of complaint-receiving bodies
- Ensure the investigation, prosecution and punishment of any act of violence motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity and ensure the systematic collection of data about such acts.
Duty to protect the right to life
- Strengthen efforts to protect the right to life of its citizens effectively
- Reinforce the financial and human resources of police and judicial departments
- Implement the amendments to the jury Act and the Evidence Act
- Conduct prompt, effective and thorough investigations in order to convict all responsible of murder or attempted murder.
Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants
- Provide the Refugee Eligibility Committee and the Refugees Department with sufficient resources in order to carry out their mandates properly and reduce the important asylum claim backlog
- Take all measures to ensure a speedy and fair asylum adjudication process
- Approve without delay all cases positively decided by the Refugee Eligibility Committee
- Repeal Section 8 (1) of the Refugees Act, and meanwhile refrain from detaining and deporting individuals who claim to fear returning to their country of origin without first ensuring access to a proper substantive review of their claim
- Bring legislation and practices relating to immigration detention into compliance with articles 9 and 10 of the Covenant, taking into account the Committee’s General Comment No. 35 (2014) on liberty and security of person
- Ensure that detained immigrants, whenever their detention is justified as reasonable, necessary and proportionate, are segregated from convicted criminals.