Commentary: Time to enforce capital punishment in Belize

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Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History

By Wellington C. Ramos

On April 21, 1973, PC 338 Antonio Aguilar, a graduate of Squad-21 from the Police Training School in Ladyville, was on his first assignment on duty on the south side of Belize City Swing Bridge when somebody reported a robbery to him. Aguilar then left to look for the robber and he confronted him. The robber took out a knife and stabbed PC Aguilar in the stomach. Aguilar then fell to the ground bleeding and the robber ran away and threw the knife into the river. Other police officers started looking for the robber and they arrested him. His name was Hannie Robinson, a Belizean male who had just returned from the United States.

Upon further investigation by the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB), the police discovered the knife in the Belize Old River. Two days after this incident, I took the examination to become a police officer and was sent to the Police Training School for six months of training. I graduated from the school on October 19, 1973, and was assigned to Patrol Branch. I was among the officers that were assigned to the Supreme Court Session when Mr Robinson was on trial for the murder of PC Aguilar in 1974.

Our detail was to go to the prison every morning to pick him up from Her Majesty’s Prison on Gabourel Lane and then drop him off back in the evenings after court. The chief justice at the time was Sir Denis Malone. The court house was packed inside and outside every day because the police officers and the public wanted capital punishment by hanging for Hannie Robinson.

During those days the murder rate in Belize City and the country of Belize was extremely low. Belize City had the largest cases on theft and Orange Walk district had the most bodily harm and murder cases in the country. A majority of the killings that were taking place in the Orange Walk District were drug related.

Section 100 of Chapter 21 of the Criminal Code of Belize at the time was the section that was used for intentional killing in Belize. If a person was found guilty of murder under that section, they were sentenced to death by hanging. Only an appeal to the Court of Appeal could halt the execution. Then, if the appeal court upheld the judgment, the Privy Council in London, England, would be the last chance to save that person’s life.

Most of the people in the country of Belize were afraid to take a person’s life for fear of being hanged and the murder rate was very low.

This was the way it was in Belize for many years until when the country of Belize decided to stop hanging on June 10, 1985, when Kent Bowers was hanged for killing Robert Codd. Since that time, we have seen the murder rate in the city of Belize and the rest of the country, climb to the point where we can bear this pain and suffering no more. It has gotten to the point where a person’s life in Belize does not mean anything to these cold blooded murderers.

The people who are against capital punishment are saying that hanging is cruel and inhumane punishment, but what about the murderers who are taking innocent people’s lives daily for no justifiable reasons? I am in support of resuming capital punishment in Belize for unjustifiable and intentional murders. I am tired for seeing families going through this pain and suffering for the innocent killing of their loved ones.

The Human Rights Commission, the European Union and all the other international bodies that are against capital punishment should not be telling our country how to enforce our laws. Some of the people who are against capital punishment are even saying that, if we resume it, the murder rate will remain the same. We do not know whether this is true or false. Unless we resume and start looking at the impact of capital punishment and murder rates.

Tyrique Myles, Rayford Mejia and Glen Lopez have all been arrested for the cold blooded murder of PC Osbourne Martinez. In Belize, like the United States and other countries, a person is innocent until proven guilty. What we do know is that PC Martinez is now dead and gone, allegedly because of these three individuals and he will no longer be with his family, friends and loved ones.

Our government cannot afford to see innocent people being killed in our cities and country anymore and think the situation will get better. Some Belizeans are even afraid to go back home for fear of being robbed or being killed. Officers put their lives on the line to protect us as citizens. Once their lives are taken by these cold blooded murderers, without any regard for the laws of our country we have no more protection.

This is the time for all of us to say, as citizens of Belize, we are not going to tolerate these senseless murders anymore, by enforcing capital punishment, which is still the law of Belize.

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