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Thread: State of Emergency declared in Belize

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
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    State of Emergency declared in Belize



    Tonight, for the first time in decades, certain areas of Southside Belize City are under a state of emergency.
    Two large areas have been designated as "public emergency zones." These are the turf of the George Street and Banak Street gangs. Their recent round of warfare resulted in the weekend's spate of killings in the city. And now, the state has responded decisively - with an unprecedented move - basically to declare the warzones special areas where police have special powers to arrest and detain without charges.

    It's a huge and historic event - and today the acting Commissioner Chester Williams led a press conference to explain why it has been necessitated:

    Jules Vasquez reporting:
    This morning police and BDF swarmed the areas in and around George Street. We saw masked BDF soldiers guarding the corners, machine guns at the ready. And while we've seen that before, the sight of these jungle ready soldiers in masks is something new, and that menacing appearance told everyone on the streets that today was not business as usual. The men you see in the back of the truck are two of about 100 detained between 3:00 am and 10:00 am as a result of a period of intense house to house searches and arrests in this neighborhood. Appearing today in operational camouflage, the acting commissioner made it clear that the time for dialogue with gangs is done!

    DCP Chester Williams- Acting Commissioner
    "We cannot continue to dialogue with people who don't want to listen."

    And those who don't want to listen will now feel, apparently.

    DCP Chester Williams- Acting Commissioner
    "It is now necessary for us to move to another level where we can let those persons who are adamant about creating havoc in our society understand that the police is here to do a job and that job will be done at any cost to ensure the safety and security of our law abiding citizens."

    And the cost in this case may be steep. These two areas on the Southside have been put under a state of emergency. In Statutory Instrument #49 signed yesterday, a proclamation declaring a state of public emergency in the Southside of Belize has designated these areas as "Public Emergency Zones." And while they may be fairly large, Acting Compol Williams says it's really all about two gangs.

    DCP Chester Williams- Acting Commissioner
    "Banak area and the George Street area are the two areas of concern at this time. And so, those are the two areas that are captured in the proclamation of a state of emergency on South Side. While yes, the proclamation does give the police and other law enforcement agencies additional powers to be able to go in and arrest the situation, we do not intend to abuse those powers bestowed upon us by the proclamation. We do not want the public to believe that, oh because we have a state of emergency, the ordinary lives of people will be disrupted by the state of emergencies in those areas; it will not. The stores in those areas will be left to remain open as normal."

    But, for the one hundred men detained, an estimated 75 of them will not know life as normal for a while.

    DCP Chester Williams- Acting Commissioner
    "What we intend to do is that in the first instance we intend to incarcerate these individuals for one month. If at the expiration of that one month period they have shown no signs of improvement or that they want to behave themselves then we intend to take it further. Now, some might say that we are really being heavy handed but truth of the matter is, and I'm sure you all will agree, that we have also talked enough with them and we need to be able to make them understand that the time for talking is done."

    Reporter
    "We are hoping that it is just not a situation where a drag net will be placed, man and man will end up being locked up or detained, some may be charged and then when they actually get out you will find that they are more aggressive towards the system and by extension the citizenry."

    DCP Chester Williams- Acting Commissioner
    "Well, that is a matter for them, you know. Like I am saying, this should be taken as a lesson for them. At the end of the day, you can't fight the state."

    And today, the full weight of the state, the legislature, the executive and the police came down on the gang subculture, engendering the implicit threat that they are willing to extend it.

    Hon. John Saldivar- Minister of National Security
    "If we should wish to have an extension of this 30 day period, we will have to take the matter to do the House of Representatives. And I, as minister, do intend to do so if the circumstances do so warrant."

    DCP Chester Williams- Acting Commissioner
    "Right now this operation is focused in Belize City. And, I will sound the warning, if the other groups decided that they want to create problems, then they will find themselves in the same situation as George Street and the Banak area."

    It's a lot of security, personnel and resources, and much of it in the name of a safe September.

    COL. Geoge Lovell- (RET'D.) CEO, Ministry of National Security "We believe that with us going into our festive season - 10th and 21st - and the fact that the type of the incidents that we have seen over the last week or so, it is absolutely necessary for us to arrest the situation and to do so before it gets out of control and we have to go back to that state where we were in March of this year.

    DCP Chester Williams- Acting Commissioner
    "The activities of these two groups have many Belizeans who are law abiding who want to be out enjoying our history; being in fear of even wanting to come out of their home- that is unacceptable."

    And in a sharp change of tone, a man who has long championed the role of community policing and what might be called the Mano suave approach says they must definitively disrupt the gang M.O. - using the Mano duro.

    DCP Chester Williams- Acting Commissioner
    "These gang members are extorting business people out there and it is really and truly getting out of control. One of them told me plain and straight, 'I live out of extortion.' Really? That can't happen."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
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    Belize
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    Ch 7:

    Bar Assoc. Blows Hot And Cold on Southside State Of Emergency


    Last night you heard the human rights advocates - who are also attorneys - complaining about the many grey areas in the state of emergency proclamations - and saying that the state had invoked the maximum constitutional power with reckless haste.
    Well, the Bar Association is taking a slightly more circumspect approach - and seems to want it both ways.

    A release today says, quote, "The Bar Association…stands in solidarity with law enforcement and the Ministry of National Security in ensuring the safety of the citizens of Belize…however…any measure taken to address the crime situation should not lead to the abuse of the human rights of any citizen…"

    It goes unto say, "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…"

    It concludes, quote, "The Bar Association is committed…to taking whatever steps…to ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all citizens are respected and upheld." End quote.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
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    Belize
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    Six Days in Lockdown and No Charge, Detainees Fed Up



    But first….two sections of Southside Belize are about to enter their second week of being under a state of emergency. And tonight scores of men from the George Street and Banak Street areas are still held in police custody. Today, on our way to the police press conference at the Queen Street station, we had to pass in front of the holding cell - and the men in there pleaded for our attention. Jules Vasquez tells us what he heard from them:..
    Jules Vasquez reporting
    This was the sound of the eruptive fury and frustration for the George Street men detained since last week here at the Queen Street station. We only got in a few words with them - but they noted said they hadn't yet been told what they were being held for. Last week the Deputy Commissioner said they would be told after 7 days:

    DCP Chester Williams
    "The constitution section 18, subsection 10 makes provision where they are entitled to certain due process. In the sense that they can be allowed access to an attorney and an attorney can make application on their behalf before a court in terms of asking the court to look at their detention and it will be a matter for us to be able to justify why we have them detained to the court and that we intend to do."

    Reporter
    "Sir, but there will be no standard 48 hours and 72 hours?"

    DCP Chester Williams, AG. Commissioner
    "No. The law simply states that in the first 7 days we must inform them of why they are detained. So in the normal course of the constitution, you have 24 hours. In this case the declaration law says 7 days in the first instance inform them as to why they are detained."

    But that is 7 days of a month:

    DCP Chester Williams, AG. Commissioner
    "What we intend to do that in the first instance we intend to incarcerate these individuals for one month - if at the end of that they have no shown no signs of improvement then we plan to take it further."

    These men shouted today that they are fed up - and the mood here this morning was, honestly, as raw as the scent of more than 20 men locked up in a small area for a week.

    Police pushed us out of the area in less than a minute, but we now wonder when these men will see a judge:

    They were picked up last week Wednesday morning - a little over 100 men, and police said they would keep 75 in custody:

    DCP Chester Williams, AG. Commissioner
    "While yes the proclamation do give the police and other law enforcement agencies powers to be able to go in and arrest the situation, we do not intend to abuse those powers that will be bestowed upon us by the proclamation."

    But seeing this scene here today, one wonders, what's next - how do police hope to keep these men calm upon their release if they will spend 30 days like this?

    Last week Friday, we saw the men from the Banak Street area who are apparently being held at Raccoon Street under similar conditions.

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