Published in:

Belize’s 2021 Human Rights Report: Laddie Mentioned

Last Updated: April 22, 2022

The United States earlier this week published a record of the human rights situation in Belize. Tonight, News Five takes a deep dive into Belize’s 2021 Human Rights Report and shares some of its main findings. Some of the information is well known to the public, while other details have perhaps gotten less attention. Here is Duane Moody.

Duane Moody, Reporting

The report speaks of the arbitrary deprivation of life and references the September fifth shooting death of off-duty B.D.F. soldier Jessie Escobar by a joint police and B.D.F. patrol back on September fifth, 2021. The report says members of the patrol attempted to pervert the course of justice when they lied about what transpired during that deadly incident. It also made reference to the killing of fourteen-year-old Laddie Gillett at the hands of Police Corporal Kadeem Martinez, as Gillett and a friend were heading back to the resort where they were staying with their family in Placencia. In that same vein, the report says that there were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

Laddie Gillett and dad on beach in belize

While Belize’s constitution prohibits torture or other inhuman punishments, there were reports of abuse and use of excessive force by law enforcement. According to the report, in the first half of 2021, twenty-five percent of complaints to the Ombudsman’s Office were filed against police for abuse of power, harassment and brutality. Also reported were allegations of inhuman treatment at the Central Prison. And then up to the end of August, there were one hundred and five registered complaints against the Belize Police Department; sixty investigations were conducted and fourteen officers were dismissed after tribunals found them guilty of offences.

Under section one ‘D’ of the report, which speaks to arbitrary arrest or detention, the state of emergency for gangs is being cited with police officers and soldiers being allowed to target criminal gangs through house raids, arrests and imprisonment.  Also included is the July 2021 ruling of the Supreme Court against citizen profiling by police officers without a clear cause for suspicion.

laddie gillett three weeks on portrait journals

Section two of the Human Rights report speaks to respect for civil liberties, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, religion and freedom of moment were addressed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the land borders remaining closed, there were exceptions to travel and some foreign nationals who were imprisoned for immigration offenses could not exit the country and were therefore kept in prison beyond their sentence. On a positive note, the Belize government has made changes to processes, including the establishment of a Refugee Eligibility Committee to protect refugees and to assist asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants.  This section also speaks about access to basic services, employment and temporary protection for these persons.

Dr Rosita at Laddie Gillett resting place

When it comes to corruption and lack of transparency in government, section four of the report says that allegations of corruption in government among public officials were numerous, but that in most cases, no substantial proof was presented. It cites the Commission of Inquiry into the sale of government assets between October 2019 and November 2020.

As it relates to discrimination and societal abuses, the data revealed from the Belize Police Department is that sixty-two percent of reported sexual violence was against girls between the ages of ten and nineteen. Women were the victims in seventy-seven percent of the one thousand seven hundred and ninety four domestic violence cases registered with the department up to the end of September 2021. Sexual assault was a problem in the B.D.F. While there is protection from sexual harassment in the workplace, no criminal cases have ever been brought under this law. While the report speaks to men’s average earning per month being more than that of women, it was primarily due to the position held and restrictions on women working in certain industries.

Child abuse was another section of the report that stood out and it was clear – the abuse of children occurred. Underage girls were victims of sexual abuse and mistreatment, in most cases in their own or a relative’s home. The data collected from family services division in the Ministry of Human Development registered two hundred and twenty cases of sexual abuse and assaults on minors by mid 2021; in 2020, there were three hundred and sixty-six for the entire year. The report also makes reference to the “sugar daddy” arrangements as it relates to the exploitation of children. That while the law defines a child as anyone younger than eighteen, children sixteen and seventeen years old can consent to engaging in sexual activity. Also while the legal minimum age to marry is eighteen, persona ages sixteen and seventeen may marry with consent from parents, legal guardians or judicial authorities. According to UNICEF, twenty-nine percent of women ages twenty to forty-nine were married or cohabitating before age eighteen.

The report goes on to speak about the social stigma of HIV and AIDS and acts of violence, criminalization and other abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And section seven wraps up the report with workers rights, touching on Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining, Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age of Employment and Acceptable Conditions of Work.

The report is used to reflect on the U.S. Government’s commitment to putting human rights at the center of its foreign policy.

Read the original news article here: