The Belize Police Department’s continued violations of 28-year-old Deon Bruce’s rights only ended because Prime Minister Dean Barrow intervened, Bruce’s attorney Kareem Musa said Tuesday.
Police arrested Bruce, who is wanted by the United States government, last Thursday, but had completely prevented his family and lawyers from seeing or speaking with him.
“Apparently the prime minister called the chief executive officer in the Ministry of National Security, Colonel George Lovell and gave him instructions for Mr. Bruce’s constitutional rights to be respected,” Musa said.
Musa further criticized the police, because when they were finally allowed to see Bruce, it was under a heavy police presence.
“They were right there eavesdropping on our conversation,” Musa said.
Bruce’s attorneys said that the police presence was another violation of an individual’s right “to communicate without delay and in private with a legal practitioner of his choice and, in the case of a minor, with his parents or guardian, and to have adequate opportunity to give instructions to a legal practitioner of his choice.”
And, in Bruce’s case, a request for extradition is all the more reason the police should have allowed his attorneys to visit him, because extradition is a very lengthy legal process that is guided by a body of specialized laws and treaty between two countries.
Musa described what happened at the Queen Street Police Station as “a very strange occurrence” for him and his two other colleagues, attorneys Bryan Neal and Michael Peyrefitte.
Musa added that when they complained to the police about the situation, the officers present, including some “very senior police officers”, told them that “this matter was bigger than any of them.”
Musa said that the police told them that upon the instructions of the Gang Suppression Unit no one was allowed to see Mr. Bruce; however, he said he later learned that it was the Anti-drug Unit that were calling the shots at the police station.
Musa shared that their biggest fear was that their client would have been whisked off and flown to the U.S., without allowing him to exercise his rights to an extradition trial.
Last Friday, Deon Bruce and his attorneys appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith to begin the extradition proceedings.
Police arrested Bruce on the strength of a provisional arrest warrant signed by Chief Magistrate Smith, after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received a request from the United States for his extradition.