Rights group in Belize questions decision to charge minor
BELMOPAN, Belize, CMC – The National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC) is condemning the recent report of a 13-year-old minor being criminally charged for alleged possession of a firearm in the absence of his parents, a Community Rehabilitation Officer or a Justice of the Peace.
The association said in a statement that the child was charged while being treated for a gunshot wound in a local hospital.
It said according to Section 2 of the Juvenile Offenders Act of Belize, a child is defined as a person under the age of 14 years and that the legislation also noted that “where a child or young person is arrested, the police officer by whom he is arrested or the officer in charge of the police station to which he is brought shall, if the parent or guardian lives within a reasonable distance and can be found, cause him to be warned to attend at the court before which the child or young person will be brought".
The group said that as a result, the charge laid against the minor is “in direct contravention of … the law.
“Furthermore, Belize was the fifth country globally to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As a signatory to this Convention, the government commits to upholding all articles contained within it".
“We take this opportunity to remind the police department and the public that under the Convention, children who come in conflict with the law, have the right to legal help and fair treatment in the justice system. Where a family cannot financially afford legal assistance, these services can be accessed from the Legal Aid and Services Centre”.
The group called for the justice system to ensure that this right of all children is adhered to.
“We also call for the police department to conduct an urgent and thorough investigation into this case, given the differing views of the family and police officers,".