The Belize Constitution (Eleventh Amendment) Bill 2021, which is expected to be tabled in the House of Representatives on Friday, July 2, does not violate anyone’s human right, Attorney General Magali Marin Young told the Reporter on Thursday.
“The amendment does not violate human rights. There is already a provision that disqualifies someone convicted of a crime by a court in the Commonwealth from being in the House or the Senate,” Marin-Young underscored. “The amendment expands the place of conviction, beyond the Commonwealth to anywhere. It also prevents someone convicted of a corrupt act from sitting in the House or Senate.”
Marin-Young was referring to the current language of the Constitution of Belize, which reads: “58.-(1) No person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives who… is under sentence of death imposed on him by a court in any part of the Commonwealth or is serving a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) exceeding twelve months imposed on him by such a court or substituted by competent authority for some other sentence imposed on him by such a court, or is under such a sentence of imprisonment the execution of which has been suspended.”
The new amendment to section 58 of the constitution, which prohibits convicted persons from being in Parliament, has been amended to include anyone that “has served a sentence of imprisonment for more than twelve months, imposed by a court in or outside of Belize.” The amendment, if passed, could spell trouble for the newly appointed Leader of the Opposition, and Area Representative for Mesopotamia Moses “Shyne” Barrow, who up to date is the only member of the House of Representatives who has served nine years in a United States jail for a shooting that happened at a nightclub roughly two decades ago.
The attorney general then went on to address the accusation that the amendment is discriminatory, which she says is not the case because it is not in violation of any of the categories (sex, race, place of origin, political opinions, color or creed), on which one could allege discrimination.
In commenting on the matter, Shyne said that he feels that he is being targeted and discriminated against and so he has all plans of fighting the Eleventh Amendment Bill all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
In a press release, Barrow said: “The 11th amendment is an attempt to criminalize the poor in perpetuity.” He went on to claim that it is discriminatory, classist, inhumane, and unconstitutional and is an attempt by the PUP Government to criminalize the poor and disadvantage. “Redemption is a human right. To deny a person the right to rehabilitate and reform is unconstitutional. You cannot throw people away.”
One independent attorney that the Reporter consulted shared that “Constitutional amendments are usually not retroactive. There is a presumption in law against retroactivity and criminal laws are prohibited from being retroactive.” According to that source that simply means that Barrow’s current role as an elected representative is safe but, if it passes, the amendment could prohibit him from running for higher office again.
For context, a full copy of the amendment is available the July 4th issue of The Reporter newspaper.