The stage is set for one of the biggest Supreme Court Cases in memory, that’s UNIBAM’s constitutional challenge to section 53 of Belize’s criminal which outlaws sex between men. The actual court hearing is set for May 7 to 10th, but today, the case was called up before Justice Michelle Arana for case management.
Caleb Orozco, the president of UNIBAM, who’s spearheading the challenge, was at court today along with his attorney Lisa Shoman, and attorneys for the Council of Churches and the Government of Belize. They held an audience with Justice Arana in her chambers, in which technical legal issues were ironed out on both sides.
The news coming out of that meeting is that the case has been moved over to the CJ’s Court – and it will be full of the highest flying legal eagles were likely to ever see packed into one courtroom. Shoman told us about the international attorneys added to their side of the case.
Lisa Shoman - Attorney for Caleb Orosco
"It's what it is now. The case is going to trial. We've been notified that the Chief Justice will be hearing the case on May 7th to 10th and we were just finalizing because the churches wanted some more time to put in their written submission. The claimant, Caleb Orosco, has filed written submissions. The human rights interested party have filed written submissions. The attorney general asked for more time and they will have to file by the 30th and the churches will be given until May 3rd. Trial days are set - it is May 7th to 10th."
"Ma'm, I also just got some information that the International interested parties have retained the services of an attorney from Trinidad and Lord Peter Goldsmith from the UK, can you confirm for us?"
"I can tell you that the claimant has a team of attorneys which has one attorney from the UWI, Mr. Christopher Hamel-Smith, Queen's Council from Trinidad is also appearing along with myself, along with Simeon Sampson. So we are all Caribbean people and I understand that the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Human Dignity Trust and the International Society of Jurists who are the human rights interested parties have asked Godfrey Smith and Lord Peter Goldsmith to appear on their behalf."
We also spoke to Orozco, who told us that the public and media are confusing to issues, human rights, and human rights enforcement.
He told us that everyone in Belize should enjoy the same rights and freedoms. According to him, the problem is that the LGBT community is often victimized, and their rights are not enforced at an institutional level.
Caleb Orosco - Challenging Belize's Constitution
"The issue for LGBT citizens is an issue of rights enforcement. It's not an issue of recognition of human rights. It’s not about special rights and it’s not about adding rights. The issue for us is recognizing that Belize has very strong human rights framework in terms of all the international treaties insights and Belize fundamental rights and freedom have very strong principles in reference to the fundamental rights and freedom within it's own constitution and national laws. The problem at the moment right now is the domestication of some of these international treaties applications. The other problem is the recognition. Not just as a matter of paper but as a matter of practice but the fundamental rights and freedom of our LGBT citizens are the same as our Belizeans. So what we are working on is to address the rights enforcement issue as it pertains to systematic responses to the concerns to the specific needs of the population."
And if Lord Peter Goldsmith sounds familiar to you he should. He’s the Queen’s Counsel from the UK who the Ashcroft Alliance has retained twice for representation in relation to hearings in the Appeal Court.