government: Parliamentary democracy
state of civil and political rights: Free
constitution: 21 September 1981
legal system: based on English common law
legislative system: bicameral, Senate and National Assembly
judicial system: Supreme Court, the chief justice is appointed by the Governor General on advice of the Prime Minister
religion: 49,6% Catholic; 27% Protestant, 14% other, 9.4% none
death row: 1 (as of 31 December 2012, source: The Death Penalty Project)
year of last executions: 0-0-0
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
Murder and military offences are capital crimes. In 2001, Belize was one of the eleven states that signed an agreement to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Privy Council as the region’s final court of appeal. The Caribbean Court of Justice was inaugurated in Trinidad on April 16, 2005. In 2010, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the final Court of Appeal in all civil and criminal matters for Belize as of 5 March 2015, only four countries – Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana – had passed under its jurisdiction..
The setting up of the CCJ has been advocated in the region as a means of throwing off the last vestiges of colonialism by establishing full legal independence. Human rights groups have voiced concerns that the court will speed up the rate of hangings, following statements that appeared to be to this effect by political leaders in the region, frustrated by the Privy Council’s blocking of hangings.
Since the 1993 Pratt and Morgan ruling by the Privy Council, the death penalty can not be carried out if the prisoner concerned has been under sentence of death for more than five years, in which case the sentence is automatically commuted to life imprisonment.
On March 11, 2002, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) had confirmed the April 2001 decision of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal (ECCA) ruling that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional, and unanimously struck down the mandatory death penalty for murder in Belize and six other countries. The JCPC made one modification to the ECCA's ruling, saying that sentences should be set by a judge and not a jury. All death row cases in these countries had to be reviewed.
In May 2011, the Government of Belize presented a Bill to Parliament containing a raft of constitutional amendments designed in part, to eliminate future legal challenges to the implementation of the death penalty. In short, the amendments sought to immunise the imposition and carrying out of a death sentence from ever being found to be unconstitutional by the courts, regardless of extensive delay on death row, inadequate prison conditions, or the proposed method of execution.
On 21st July 2011, together with the Human Rights Commission of Belize, we submitted (as interested parties) a written application to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking their intervention/action with regard to the proposed constitutional amendments in Belize. Subsequently on 28 July 2011, the Government of Belize withdrew the Bill.
The last execution was carried out in June 1985, when Kent Bowers was hanged.
The last man held on death row in Belize was reprieved on 13 July 2015, when the Supreme Court confirmed that Glenford Baptist would never be executed. His death sentence has been quashed as it was found to be unconstitutional.
On December 19, 2016, Belize voted against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.