BELIZE CITY, Tues. July 21, 2020– A number of persons detained under the recent State of Emergency that was declared on the south side of Belize City have reached out to attorney and member of Justice for Humans, Michelle Trapp, who has initiated a judicial review action to question the validity of the Southside State of Emergency.
Trapp has been reaching out to detainees and their families who have suffered damage to property and the traumatic experience of their homes being invaded by militarized police.
Data is currently being gathered from those persons to determine the nature of questioning and negotiation done by police prior to their detention.
In an interview with the media, Trapp said that the judicial review action in no way indicates support for any criminal elements or activity. The organization simply felt that they had a duty to protect the human rights of affected persons and could not sit on the sidelines as these rights are being infringed upon by state power.
Trapp said that they must first seek the court’s permission to bring the action in judicial review, after which, if the review is allowed, the validity and legality of the July State of Emergency will be determined by the courts.
According to Trapp, there are only two legal mechanisms in place to question actions taken during a State of Emergency: a writ of habeas corpus, or actions in a judicial review.
While the attorney intends to file several applications in habeas corpus on behalf of detained persons, to date, only one has been filed.
On July 6, 2020, a State of Emergency was declared for the south side of Belize City after a spike in gang-related violence and crime. About 99 persons were detained in a string of pre-dawn raids in neighborhoods dubbed as gang areas by police.
Various legal minds and critics of the Government are questioning whether or not the Southside is in fact in a State of Emergency.
While section 18 of the Belize Constitution empowers the Governor-General to declare a State of Emergency on the advice of the government, that power is to be used sparingly, and only in special circumstances, as outlined in the legislation.
The July 2020 State of Emergency was declared after the gang-related murders of two young men in Belize City and a spike in robberies. In the past, we have seen bloodier weekends and more violent spikes in overall criminal activity without a State of Emergency being declared.
Trapp is seeking to utilize the judicial oversight role of the courts to determine if the State of Emergency was a knee-jerk reaction from security forces, or if there is really a State of Emergency on Southside Belize City.