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PACE Justice Project launched in Belize

GeneralPACE Justice Project launched in Belize

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Feb. 16, 2024

The PACE Justice Project was officially launched in Belize on Friday, February 16, in collaboration with the European Union (EU), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Government of Belize.

The project’s main objective is to enhance the institutional capacities of prosecutors, courts, police, and prisons in the Caribbean to manage criminal cases effectively and efficiently. In 2020, it was discovered, through the UNDP Judicial Needs Assessment of 9 Caribbean Countries, that efficient access to justice is being undermined across the region by delays within several key stages of the criminal justice process, resulting in major backlogs of cases.

Those backlogs directly contribute to the worryingly high levels of prisoners on remand for extended periods, and serve to increase overall incarceration rates in the region – which are already among the highest globally.

“The judicial needs assessment that we were able to undertake some time ago across the Caribbean was an important base for the PACE initiative, revealed significant challenges, including those delays in the criminal justice process, the backlog of cases, and how that exacerbates issues such as the prolonged pre-trial detentions, increased incarceration rates, and the urgent need for intervention,” said Kishan Khoday, Resident Representative for UNDP.

“It is a sign of the commitment of the European Union and the Caribbean to work hand in hand in the defense of those values that we still think are important, and that is upholding the rule of law and democracy … It’s essential for society as a whole, as it sends out a clear message to potential offenders that it can act as a deterrent. Delays in the process, on the other hand, can indeed result in victims and their loved ones feeling that they are being left in limbo, and victims feeling every time re-victimized by having to repeatedly retell the story and the dramatic experience they may have gone through,” remarked Her Excellency, Marianne Van Steen, EU Ambassador to Belize.

Also attending the event was the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño who delivered the keynote address.

“This project is good for Belize because it is about helping us accomplish a more fair and just judicial system. It will help us in other ways too, like providing alternative pathways for youths at risk. It assists us to better recognize the needs of our citizens. An efficient judiciary, capable of responding to the needs of citizens, helps to build public trust in the legal system. A competent and effective judicial system is also imperative for the development of a robust business and investment ecosystem,” he said.

Belize is one of eight Caribbean countries that will benefit from the PACE Justice Project – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago being the others. The project has an overall budget of 10.3 million Euros and is set to begin in April of this year and conclude in March 2027.

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