UWI Hosts Seminar on Constitutional Rights
Today, the University of the West Indies hosted a forum entitled Ďthe Impact of the Magna Carta on Human rights in Belize.í† The Magna Carta is a document signed in 1215 which effectively limited the absolute power of the King of England. It is considered to be the foundation for the concept of human rights in a democratic country Ė the concept of being governed by laws and not by men. Those premises, principles and rights have also found a home in the constitution of progressive countries including Belize. But how does the Magna Carta, considered the most important constitutional document of all time, relate to life in Belize today? This morning attorney Dickie Bradley, one of the speakers at the event, explained.
Dickie Bradley, Speaker at Conference
ďHaving found its way into the Constitution of Belize under Chapter Two, which deals with all the rights that citizens have, a long list of rights…by finding its way into that document it means what they started eight hundred years ago is what we are protected under. The constitution protects your right that Police canít kick down your door and come break up your house and haul you out…the Police have to follow the law just like the King and rulers. The person who is taken down to the Police Station…the law of this land, the constitution itself, says that you canít take a person down to the Police Station unless you are going to charge them…you canít take away manís liberty. That is in gross violation of the rights of Belizeans, and lots of other things. You canít take away a personís land. We know what happens with land in this country…they arbitrarily take away peopleís land. You donít even know that youíve lost your land. They just give your land to somebody else. When you go to pay your taxes they tell you no, theyíve taken away your land. You donít even get a notice. All those things are illegal because the constitution makes them so, and the constitution comes from a series of Magna Cartas that men and women stood up and were bold and brave enough to confront the absolute rule of a King of England, of several kings. It is relevant to us because by speaking of the Magna Carta to students, to the future leaders of the nation, they will have a better appreciation of what it took to bring these concepts into the Constitution, how great it is to be protected, not by a king, but by the supreme law of the land.Ē
Dickie Bradley on the Gun Law
Earlier we told you about the seminar being held under the auspices of the University of the West Indies. The purpose of the day-long session is basically to determine how far we have come where constitutionally guaranteed rights are concerned. Especially where the imprisonment of Belizeans is concerned, speaker at the seminar Dickie Bradley says that sometimes it is difficult to believe that weíve come eight hundred years since the signing of the Magna Carta.
Dickie Bradley, Speaker at Conference
ďOur liberties as citizens of this country are being watered down, are being whittled, because while youíre entitled to your freedom of movement, to your right to be free, they have been passing laws to say that first of all the Magistrate does not have any discretion to give a man bail for the first three months if he commits this or that offence, and it is only an allegation against him. So that these laws which are interfering with your right to be free are packing up the jail, is violating your right to be treated as innocent until you are proven guilty, is violating your right to have bail. Bail is not some sort of privilege…bail by law is a right. You are entitled to your freedom. And what has been happening before our eyes is that a long list of offences the rulers are making it that our Magistrate canít give bail. If you canít afford a lawyer to go to the Supreme Court you have to stay in jail. Men are in there five years, seven years, ten years and canít have a trial. How did we reach that stage? Eight hundred years ago they were putting an end to those things.Ē