By: MOLLY WICKER
Belize recently celebrated its second conviction ever under its 2013 Trafficking in Persons Act. On March 10, a jury unanimously found the defendant, Rosa Anita Garcia Julian, guilty of two counts of human trafficking. This was both the first human trafficking trial, and the first conviction in Belize, since 2016.
The case was based on an investigation that began in November 2015 and has been pending trial for several years. The defendant was convicted for luring a mother and daughter from Guatemala to work at a bar as cashiers in Belize. Both were forced to work without pay. The daughter was forced to perform sex acts with customers, and the defendant threatened to harm the victims’ families in Guatemala if they did not comply with her orders. Eventually, the relevant authorities in Belize learned of the situation and conducted an operation leading to the women’s release and their eventual return to Guatemala. The police’s subsequent investigation led to the arrest of Garcia Julian and her prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions. This conviction represents another huge step forward for Belize in its fight against human trafficking.
The Institute’s work in Belize was launched in 2017, when at the request of the Chief Justice, the Institute hosted a training on Trafficking in Persons cases for Belize’s magistrate judges and Supreme Court Justices. Since then, the Institute has:
- Signed a formal agreement with the Head of the Belize Police Department in Belize to expand Belize’s law enforcement capacity by supporting the newly formed specialized anti-trafficking unit’s investigation and prosecution of human traffickers.
- Entered into a formal agreement with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Belize to hire a law clerk, who works under the supervision of Supreme Court Justice Antoinette Moore, to help process trafficking cases more efficiently.
- Partnered with the Belize Police Department to hold a series of five trainings at the Belize Central Prison to train prison employees on how to identify potential victims of trafficking.
As the Institute continues to partner with the Government of Belize to equip key personnel with the expertise and skills they need, this November, the Institute and the Government of Belize will bring together front-line personnel from across the criminal justice system for a week-long training on investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases to build on these successes.