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Government of Belize respect judicial Independence and Impartiality, 2023 Human Rights report find

Posted: Monday, April 22, 2024. 3:56 pm CST.

By Zoila Palma Gonzalez: Today, Monday, the U.S. Government released the 2023 Human Rights Report.

With regards to the judiciary, the report noted, “the constitution provided for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.”

However, it cited that there were long delays in holding trials.

“The law provided for the right to a fair and public trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right, although long delays in holding trials occurred,” it added.

“There was no requirement for defendants to have legal representation except in cases involving murder. The Supreme Court’s registrar was responsible for appointing an attorney to act on behalf of indigent defendants charged with murder. The Legal Advice and Services Center provided legal services and representation for a range of civil and criminal cases. These legal aid services were overstretched, however, and were not available in rural areas,” the report explained.

The report also noted that in May, senior attorneys criticized the government for appointing a special prosecutor to a murder case after the director of public prosecutions recused herself and her office staff from handling the matter. The director of public prosecutions was related by marriage to the accused.

Some members of the Belize Bar Association and opposition legislators pointed out the appointment contravened the constitution because the minister of home affairs named a prosecutor, which should be the sole prerogative of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Additionally, it noted that due to substantial delays and a backlog of cases in the justice system, at times the courts did not bring some minor defendants to trial until after they reached age 18. In such cases, the defendants were tried as minors.

The report found that there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

 

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