Re: Police harassment of Antoinette Moore
To: Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
From: Dr. Brian Donovan LRWC member
We are gravely concerned about the present situation of Antoinette Moore, a lawyer who works in the Dangriga area of Belize, and of her husband Michael Flores, a businessman, journalist and former radio broadcaster. Both Ms. Moore and Mr. Flores have been outspoken critics of human rights abuses alleged to have been committed by the Belize police, including police shootings of Belize citizens, beatings and torture of Belize citizens while held in custody, and the completely ineffective penalties which have been imposed upon the perpetrators when, indeed, any penalties at all have been handed out. Ms. Moore, in particular, has represented several victims of these abuses.
We understand that over the past year Ms. Moore and Mr. Flores have been subjected to persistent police harassment in apparent retaliation for their efforts on behalf of victims of such unlawful police conduct. In January, 2003, it was reported that the Assistant Superintendent of Police responsible for the Dangriga area had stated that he would soon “be taking steps to deal with them.” Several days later, Mr. Moore and Mr. Flores were arrested and charged with trafficking in illegal drugs.
While LRWC is not privy to whatever “evidence” has been proffered in support of these serious charges, under the circumstances it is our belief that the charges have been brought for the highly improper purpose of retaliation by the police authorities against Ms. Moore and Mr. Flores for their legitimate advocacy on behalf of victims of police mistreatment. We respectfully request the intervention of your office to initiate a full and impartial investigation of the circumstances of Ms. Moore’s and Mr. Flores’ harassment, arrests and charges, and that should these charges move forward that Ms. Moore and Mr. Flores be protected from police violence and other mistreatment and accorded the opportunity to consult and be represented by independent counsel of their choice.
Beyond the particular cases of Ms. Moore and Mr. Flores LRWC is concerned by the reports of endemic police brutality in Belize. We understand that the perpetrators are rarely disciplined in any manner, and when penalties have been handed out these have consisted of minor fines which neither punish the perpetrators in any meaningful manner nor serve as any sort of effective deterrent. Article 3(a) of the Constitution of Belize guarantees everyone the right to “life, liberty, security of the person, and the protection of the law.” We believe that the police activities complained of by Ms. Moore and Mr. Flores constitute flagrant violations of this Article. Moreover, Belize is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The police conduct complained of would certainly constitute violations of Belize’s international obligations under these conventions.
We therefore additionally request the intervention of your office to insure that the conduct of the police authorities in Belize be brought into conformity with Belize’s international obligations and domestic law.