(CMC) – Four Belizean police officers, including an inspector, have been charged with manslaughter arising out of the death of a 20-year-old man who was allegedly left unattended in a prison van for over 12 hours.
Derrick Uh was arrested on accusations of touching a woman inappropriately.
Uh, who was attending the popular San Joaquin Festival on Sunday night, was placed inside the vehicle and later discovered dead.
The four cops – Inspector Isaias Sanchez, Sergeant Rosario Romero and police constables Errol Peralta and Alrick Borland – were brought to the court under heavy police guard late Thursday.
They are due to return to court on September 13.
The media was not allowed to enter the courtroom as police officers kept reporters at a distance and no plea was taken. Following submissions by their lawyers the men were granted bail of BDZ$10,000 (One Belize dollar=US$0.49 cents) each.
Attorney Norman Rodriguez, who is representing Peralta, later told reporters “it’s the usual preceding. If you’re charged for a crime you are brought before the court. You are arraigned then you are read the charge and a plea is taken, but because this one is indictable no plea was taken”.
He said that there was no objection to bail.
“It was the same across the board for all four officers. They court was minded to grant bail that the defendant had to produce a house paper or house lot or some document related to property. We made further submissions and the court considered those submissions, and that ended up giving them signed bails.
“They need to surrender their documents. They are not to apply for any other documents without the permission of the court. They are not to leave the country without permission, and they are to sign in every Monday between six a.m. and nine a.m. at the Corozal Police Station”
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Belize is calling on the Belize Police Department to improve and enforce disciplinary measures.
In a statement, the commission said the circumstances surrounding the death of Uh are incredulous and a travesty.
“While the Commissioner of Police Chester Williams has indicated that the department will ensure a full and thorough investigation into the matter, we call on the government to look into more severe punishments for law enforcement officers who are found culpable of gross negligence and breach of protocols.”
The human rights group said that the damages to victims or their families should be the liability of the officers to also contribute to the cost.
Home Affairs Minister, Kareem Musa, has already described the incident that led to Uh’s death as “truly an unthinkable travesty, something that none of us could ever fathom could possibly take place and a series of missteps and mishaps that have resulted in this absolutely heinous tragedy.
“We will ensure that this is a thorough, comprehensive and fully transparent investigation into this what I have to categorize as a wrongful death instance. Up to this time, there is nothing to suggest that there was any intentionally killing of Derrick Uh,” he added.