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Team Investigates Sexual Atrocities in the BDF

Team Investigates Sexual Atrocities in the BDF
February 02
11:00 2020

Team Investigates Sexual Atrocities in the BDF

ON: Thursday, 30 January 2020 –
Senior Officers of the Belize Defense Force (BDF), ranging from corporals to captains, are under investigation tonight after several reports surfaced this week of sexual misconduct involving them and female recruits who will become full private soldiers by week’s end.

On Thursday, the Ministry of National Security informed that the Minister, John Saldivar has assigned a team to investigate the reports of alleged extortion, maltreatment, sexual assault and sexual advances at the BDF’s Training Company. The investigative team is led by Assistant Superintendent Sherlette Ramclam, who recently graduated from the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Academy with honours. It also includes Inspector Shaida McKenzie, who is the Lead Investigator at the Crimes Investigation Branch (CIB) in Belize City; Ms. Josephine Garbutt, a Senior Administrative Officer at the Ministry of National Security; and retired Commissioner of Police Gerald Westby, the present Chairman of the Civilian Complaint and Review Board.

The Ministry issued a press release which states in part: “The BDF views every single case of sexual assault as a failure to manage and enforce the standard procedures that are in place to protect the recruits that were in training. This matter will be investigated thoroughly and will be dealt with accordingly.” The Ministry assures that it will act swiftly to ensure the complaints are investigated thoroughly and that anyone found culpable will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

BDF Commandant, Brigadier General Steven Ortega assures that the procedures will be reviewed to prevent any such recurrences and urges the affected recruits to pursue justice.

Our attempts to reach anyone at the Ministry for an interview were unsuccessful, but best information is that perhaps, as many as ten senior Officers may be investigated for multiple allegations. It is likely that at the end of the investigations, criminal charges will be brought against more than one of the Officers. One of the recruits, we understand, reported that one of the senior officers on the training team sexually assaulted her and that she reported him to a senior member of the training team, who ignored her report. Another outrageous report is that at least one of the recruits may have been impregnated by a senior officer through rape during the training period.

Aside from the allegations of sexual misconduct, there is also the issue of extortion, which it is reported involves huge sums of money which the recruits were forced to pay for a party and for T-shirts for themselves and for their instructors.

While this is the first time in recent memory that action is being taken against these allegations, reports of sexual misconduct and other abuses within different sections of Belize’s law enforcement agencies have been commonplace for years, but the reports never reached this level of scrutiny and involving so many officers.

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