Sunday, June 23, 2024

Caleb Orozco’s case against Attorney General now in deliberation


Section 53 of the Belize Constitution states, “Every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.” Essentially this law criminalizes all acts of anal sex between men and men, men and women and men and children, regardless of age and consent. For about three years Caleb Orozco, Executive Director of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), had prepared to challenge Section 53 in the Belize court of law, since according to the law homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is a criminal activity.

On December 5, 2012, Orozco faced the Attorney General of Belize before Justice Michelle Arana. Attorney Michel Chebat, representing the churches of Belize, applied for an extension to the court hearing, which was granted by Justice Arana. The full court hearing was then moved to the court of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin for May 7-10, 2013.
The court hearing began on Tuesday, May 7th. The claimant’s party consisted of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Human Dignity Trust, the International Commission of Jurists and UNIBAM. They argue that the case is not about legalizing gay rights in Belize, but rather empowering a person’s right to privacy and human dignity since the laws seems to degrade and criminalize acts that occur in the privacy of home. “I am forcing the issue to the Supreme Court because of discrimination, whether it’s selective discrimination or unjust discrimination. You cannot pick or choose the fundamental rights and freedom that we have as humans. It is my right to bring the issue to the court and treat the issue fairly, not with the prejudice that is perceived but with the discussion it deserves,” said Orozco.
Leading Orozco’s claim is Senior Counsel Christopher Hamel Smith. Smith argued that Section 53 of the Belize’s constitution categorizes Orozco as a criminal because of his sexual orientation. The last argument made by the claimant’s party was delivered on Wednesday, May 8th by Hamel Smith. He added that the right to privacy is a fundamental human right and that Section 53 is unjust and violates basic human rights to expression of freedom.

Defending party of the Attorney General of Belize was composed by Crown Counselors Nigel Hawke, Gillian Smith, Herbert Panton and Magali Perdomo, while representing the Church are attorneys: Eamon Courtenay, Rodwell Williams, Michel Chebat, Jacqueline Marshalleck and Christopher Coye.
Thursday, May 9th, the defending party presented its arguments against Orozco’s claim. Hawke opened his statement by saying that it would be constitutional blasphemy if the court goes against the Constitution of Belize. According to Hawke “rights cannot be implanted into a constitution.” Hawke further added that it is up to Belizean people, through Parliament, to determine what Belize’s moral code is and what is socially accepted and denied as privacy.
On Friday, May 10th, Eamon Courtenay delivered the final statements of the defending party. He stated that Orozco could not prove that any of his constitutional rights were violated, since he has never been persecuted under Section 53 of the Constitution of Belize. “The cases are very clear that you cannot bring a claim under the constitution since there is very little evidence about a personal prejudice. You have to suffer a right, you have to suffer a prejudice and when that happens to you then you come to court,” stated Courtenay.

According to Senior Counselor Lisa Shoman, Orozco’s case was well presented at court and that the claimant’s team stands a good chance at winning the case. “I think we (the claimant’s team) feel very strongly on behalf of the claimant. Not only is he where he should be, but that he has put forward a very clear, strong and compelling case. As Mr. Hamel Smith clearly pointed out, if you read Mr. Orozco’s affidavit, it is clear, it has all the evidence, the only thing Mr. Orozco hasn’t done is to incriminate himself in an act, but he is very clear about who he is and about his standing to bring the claim, “said Shoman shortly after the case culminated.
The court hearing is officially over, and the judgement is left to be decided by Chief Justice Benjamin. The date for the verdict is scheduled for the end of the judicial term, sometime in the ending of July.

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