The last weekend proved to be the deadliest for the year in Belize as authorities were left to investigate four deaths and the circumstances surrounding seven other persons being injured. In Orange Walk Town alone, only a few weeks back, insecurity gripped the community following the discovery of the bodies of Ramon Cervantes Senior and Sonia Abac and those cases are still open.
To further compound the crime in the country, reports include the arrests of dirty cops for their involvement in homicides, bribery or police brutality, leaving an already anxious community even more unconvinced of Belizean authorities’ ability to curb crime. Add to that, a justice system that has proved lax and with a very low conviction rate. The situation can very well be described as critical and has led to a surge of commentaries from Belizeans on the social media calling for the death penalty.
After this past weekend’s crime surge, even government official Santiago Castillo, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in an interview with Belize City media was quoted saying, “I believe that we need to not only fix the justice system and improve our conviction rate but I believe that we have to put a deterrent to crime and my belief is that we should look and reconsider to reinstate the death penalty. This thing has really gone too far and, you know, you can lose your life for no reason at all.”
The situation has perhaps raised the debate over capital punishment in Belize, even if solely on the social media or over brunch. The question is how practical is it? Will it affect the change Belizeans would like to see on crime?
For starters, Belize justice system is porous, evidenced by the low conviction rate. To execute capital punishment there must be an evidence based conviction for murder. This leads to evidence, which case after case the public has witnessed the police department incapable of effectively gathering. Even so, without delving further into technicalities, government has signed several conventions and declarations to protect human rights.
These are only a few points that are brought up in the debate on capital punishment. And while Belizeans clamor for it, international reports indicate that around the world, the death penalty is becoming a thing of the past. In a report dated March 27, 2014, which studied countries implementing the death penalty in 2013, stated that quote, “People were executed in a total of 22 countries in 2013, one more than in the year before…and that… Despite the setbacks in 2013, there has been a steady decline in the number of countries using the death penalty over the last 20 years, and there was progress in all regions last year.”
The article continues saying that many countries who executed in 2012 did not implement any death sentences last year, including Gambia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. To give a clearer picture, the article indicated that twenty years ago, 37 countries actively implemented the death penalty.
This number had fallen to 25 by 2004 and was at 22 last year. Only nine of the world’s countries have executed year on year for the past five years. If the statistics are indeed accurate, will government eventually, if ever, reconsider the death penalty? The debate continues.
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