The Government of Belize has announced the withdrawal of the 8th Constitution Amendment Bill, which proposed amendments to Section 7 of the Constitution prohibiting torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The decision occurred in the immediate aftermath of news of the submissions made to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by the Human Rights Commission of Belize (HRCB) and the Death Penalty Project.
The Government has now introduced a 9th Constitution Amendment Bill, proposing amendments to Section 2 of the Constitution, the Supremacy of the Constitution, and Section 69 of the Constitution, detailing provisions for altering the Constitution. These amendments would have the effect of barring “any challenge in any court of law on any ground whatsoever” to all future amendments to the Constitution by Parliament. If a Bill similar to the now withdrawn 8th Amendment Bill were proposed in the future, its passage could be guaranteed, as there would be no recourse to the domestic courts for the protection of fundamental rights in Belize.
The 9th Constitutional Amendment Bill was tabled before the House of Representatives on 22 July 2011. It may be debated and enacted after a consultation period of ninety days. Given the breadth and scope of the proposed amendments and their potential impact on the protection of fundamental rights in Belize, the situation continues to be a matter of urgent regional and international concern.
Notes to Editors:
1. For further information please contact Saul Lehrfreund MBE or Parvais Jabbar, Executive Directors of the Death Penalty Project Ltd at Simons Muirhead & Burton Solicitors.
2. Alternatively, please contact Antoinette Moore and Simeon Sampson at the Human Rights Commission of Belize.