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Published: April 4, 2014

Sanctions for “hate crimes” and “hate speech” against LGBTI persons: UNIBAM

 
In addition to facing legal challenges from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community to the country’s sodomy laws in the Supreme Court and its immigration laws before the Caribbean Court of Justice, Belize is now facing a human rights challenge before the Inter-American Commission on Humans Rights (IACHR) – a challenge led by United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), the same NGO which had petitioned the Supreme Court to have the law criminalizing sodomy struck off the country’s law books.
 
The State of Belize was summoned to appear in Washington, DC, USA, before the IACHR—an instrument of the Organization of American States (OAS)—on the morning of Friday, March 28, 2014, after UNIBAM petitioned for a human rights hearing in which the NGO is demanding that the Government of Belize implement measures to protect the rights of the LGBTI community in Belize.
 
UNIBAM is also demanding legislation to sanction persons for what it calls “hate crimes” and “hate speech” against LGBTI persons. It claims violation and discrimination in health, education and employment, and major security concerns for LGBTI persons – citing the recent January 2013 murder of Joseph Sanchez, a transgender individual who police said was killed in the process of an aggravated robbery by two men, although UNIBAM had wrongly called it a hate crime.
 
The summons to Belize from the IACHR was not made public by Belize officials, and neither did the Government of Belize report on the Washington hearing.
 
In his presentation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, UNIBAM’s executive director, Caleb Orozco, spoke of the hanging of a UNIBAM effigy at one of the constitutional marches against the Revised Gender Policy 2013, and he congratulated the state on being steadfast in its position of not withdrawing that gender policy—notwithstanding strong opposition from thousands, including leading clergy in Belize, who marched and issued public calls for its retraction.
 
Orozco furthermore cited Amandala for comments penned by editor-in-chief Russell Vellos, and he also decried comments included in the newspaper’s coverage of their Supreme Court trial.
 
Orozco said that Amandala’s editor had written the following in the November 17, 2011, edition of his opinion column, Of this and that: “Well, I’ve got news for these homos. I won’t budge a millimeter from my stand against them. They can call me anything they like, as many times a day as they feel like, and theirs will still be a nasty, despicable, God-forbidden way of life until the heavens crumble, and even afterward.
 
“An individual wrote me a very short note in support of my previous article, and his remark against homosexuals was, ‘not even my dogs do this!’”

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