Lawyers express concern at possible human rights abuses under state of emergency

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BELMOPAN, Belize, Sept 8, CMC – The Bar Association of Belize (BAB) says while it stands in ‘solidarity” with the government regarding the imposition of the state of emergency (SOE) in the south side of Belize City, it nonetheless is expressing concerns about possible human rights abuse.
“The Bar Association has some serious concerns regarding the legal basis for the (declaration of a state of public emergency”), and even more so, regarding the manner in which the Belize Police Department has been operating thus far…,” the BAB said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the government announced the SOE as it seeks to deal with the escalation of gun violence in the area that left at least six people dead over the last weekend.
National Security Minister John Saldivar, said he was prepared to go to Parliament to seek an extension of the SOE as the law enforcement agencies seek to put a lid on gang violence in the area.
“Under the emergency powers granted under the constitution, if we should wish to have an extension of this 30 -day period we will have to take the matter to the House of Representative and I as the minister do intend to do so if the circumstances do so warrant,” he said.
Under the SOE, the police and other agencies have the authority to incarcerate gang members and their affiliates from these two areas for 30 days, without them having been charged for any crime. So far, more than 100 people have been detained under the SOE.
In its statement released here on Friday night, the BAB said while it “stands in solidarity with law enforcement and the Ministry of National Security in ensuring the safety of the citizens of Belize…any measure taken to address the crime situation should not lead to the abuse of the human rights of any citizen.
“The Bar Association is committed…to taking whatever steps…to ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all citizens are respected and upheld,” the BAB added.

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