George Street Residents Receive Payments from Goverment of Belize

verdict hamer 0Friday morning at the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin signed the final consent order allowing payment of a $175,000 settlement to 18 residents of George Street who were brutalized by members of the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) in August of 2011. Government Counsel in the Solicitor General’s office, Herbert Panton, said GOB recognized that redress for the GSU’s abusive actions was long overdue.

vlcsnap-2013-12-21-13h42m04s158Mr. Herbert Panton- Government Counsel in the Solicitor General’s Office

“In the interest of  justice, it is always better to try to seek common ground rather than rivalry.  This has been going on for two to three years already.  So, it was time to put a correction”.

Reporter:  “Tell us the government position on what happened with the GSU and the members of the George Street residents”. 

Belize supreme courtMr. Herbert Panton:  “That question is above my pain skin; I don’t know what the Government ‘s position is.  I can speak as a representative for the Solicitor General and it is our considered due that the matter ought to be settled”.

The payments will be divided as follows: $12,000 each for 10 individuals who presented medico-legal forms classifying various injuries caused by the GSU, and $5,000 each to 8 individuals who were falsely detained for 62 hours but could not prove injury.  Half the money was handed out today, and the other installment will be paid in January. But no amount, says counsel for the George Street claimants, Attorney Kareem Musa, will ease the humiliation and pain they suffered on that August afternoon.

vlcsnap-2013-12-21-13h42m56s240Mr. Kareem Musa- Attorney and Counsel for the Claimants

“Today, the gentlemen saw a very positive end to a truly unfortunate incident; one that I believe ought to have never occurred in a civilized society.   I think that in a truly tragic state of affairs does not speak for us as a country, when you have the police taking matters into their own hands, and infringing upon the rights of the citizens of the country.  It’s a very positive end and yes, we have received the first half of the final settlement 

We spoke to one of the claimants, Alpheus Smith. Smith is an older man and says he was minding his own business tending to the barbecue grill when he was attacked and badly injured. While he remains disappointed with how Police handled the matter, he says he wants to correct the impression that force was necessary because the GSU were operating in a gang-controlled area. He personally, he told us, is not a gangster.

vlcsnap-2013-12-21-14h00m15s173Mr. Alpheus Smith- One of the Claimants

‘To be truthful, it’s nice to have the money, but I know for a fact that I am going to be in pain for the rest of my life because I’m in pain everyday”.

Reporter:  “What were the extent of your injuries?”

Mr. Alpheus Smith:  “The kicked me in the rib here and stamped me in the back and wop me in the back with a flashlight.  Right now, I’m suffering”. 

invasion of the GSUReporter:  “Sir, while you may know the residents who have no connection with the gang that is supposedly living through that area, there are some members of the public- I received some sentiment: “Look, the police took it above and beyond, but let’s be honest, we are dealing with members of the gang; that’s what they are saying”.

Mr. Alpheus Smith:  “Yeah, but am no gang man as such but I just went to pay respect because I know the young man.  That’s craziness- it’s foolishness what they did”.

Payment was also finalized for Zane Galvez, who received half of $30,000 for injuries he sustained in the same incident.  He was represented by attorney Anthony Sylvestre.

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