Belize UDP Government Passes Toughest Laws Ever To Deal with Violent Gang Related Crimes, Death Penalty, Jury Trials and Bails
Contributed By: Wellington C. Ramos
A couple weeks back the Belize UDP government tabled and passed new bills to deal with violent gang related crimes- death penalty, jury trials and bails. This was done because last year there were about 129 murders committed in Belize the highest ever in the country’s history. Up to the end of last month, the number of murders committed in the entire country of Belize was already at about 40 and Belize hasn’t reached half of the calendar year yet. Most of these murders are occurring in the city of Belize where the majority of the Belizean population resides and rival gangs estimated to be about twenty-three or more. For these laws to pass, the government will have to amend some of the current Criminal Statutes and the Belize Constitution that deals with confinement of citizens, bails, trial by Juries, and the definition as to what is considered Cruel and Inhumane Punishment of Citizens for crimes committed.
In 2008 and 2011 a British Journalist by the name of Ross Kemp did two graphic documentaries titled “Gangs In Belize” on the daily criminal activities and lifestyles of Belizean gang members and the threat they pose to the Belizean society. It also implied that some of these gang members have extensive US gang experience that they brought with them after they were deported and connections with other gang and drug members from different countries in the region. I hereby encourage all Belizeans to take the opportunity to watch this documentary which is available on the internet or could be purchased through DVD’s at most stores.
The Bills that were introduced in the House of Representatives were the following: The Eight Amendment to the Belize Constitution, Crime control and Criminal Justice Amendment Bill, Indictable Procedure Amendment Bill and the Supreme Court of Judicature Amendment Bill. The Eight Amendment will give the courts the power to conceal the identities of witnesses in trials where their lives are being threatened, to detain and confine some convicted criminals while pending an appeal for their convictions, to detain some suspected criminals beyond 48 hours with the approval of the courts, to have trials by a Judge instead of a Jury for some crimes and to reword the language in the Constitution that deals with Cruel and Inhumane Punishment. This new language is for a person who is convicted of murder and was given the death penalty, his or her Attorney (s) will not be able to use the definition as a legal argument to block the execution of the convicted person (s) at the Belize Court of Appeals and the Caribbean Court of Justice (C.C.J.) the final court for all appeals in the country of Belize which replaced the Privy Council Court in Great Britain last year.
Whether these new initiatives will work is still left to be seen. I am a strong believer that the Government will have to do more to eradicate these gangs in Belize. Belize is not an overpopulated country and most Belizeans know each other. If we establish an Anti Gang Unit that is given six months of Military and Police Training, A Gang Intelligence Unit, A Gang Court and a Gang Rehabilitation Reform Division we will be demonstrating how serious we are in dealing with gang crimes and violence in our country. Each of these newly created agencies will have their main mission to accomplish. The Anti-Gang Unit will be responsible of the eradication of all currently existing gangs in the country of Belize. The Gang Intelligence Unit will be responsible for the gathering of information on all current existing and proposed gangs and gang leaders. The information gathered, will be passed over to the Anti Gang Unit for immediate enforcement actions for the total demolishment of the gang through law enforcement and court actions. A gang Court will deal with trials of all gang related crimes where the punishments will be more severe and the judges and prosecutors will be given all the protection they deserve.
Finally, the Gang Rehabilitation Reform Division will have anti-gang programs for our youths to discourage them from becoming gang members. Also, to help reform current members of gangs who have indicated that they intend to cease and desist from remaining active gang members. There is a strong possibility that many of these current gang members would like to leave the gangs they are in but have no way out or any other place to turn to. If this is the case, we should create the agency that will afford them that opportunity. There is a true saying that “Laws are useless unless they are enforced”. Our government has been passing many laws since they came to power in 2008. Yet, the number of senseless murders that are being committed on the streets of Belize City continue to rise everyday. Belizeans are beginning to believe that the government doesn’t care and that these gang members do not value an individual’s life. All of us as Belizeans must now come together to change this mindset.
I remember the good old days when we could all go to a Saturday night dance and have fun but away bullet on the unsafe streets of Belize City. Let me make this clear to the Belizean who is thinking about taking a person’s life. The punishment for taking a person’s life in Belize is still “Death by Hanging”. This hasn’t changed over the years and all those who have killed and are still living were not hanged due to legal flaws and technicalities. Pretty soon somebody will be sentenced to death by hanging and his or her case will end up before the Caribbean Court of Justice. With the rate of high murders in Belize and the other Caribbean countries today, the people are demanding that their countries resume hangings now. Do not put yourself at risk to be that first person because your life is too valuable to all those who love you. The loss of our loved ones is the most painful and unforgettable experience we can have. Let us begin to demonstrate love to each other as Belizeans, rather than killing our fellow brothers and sisters for no justifiable reason or reasons.