Lionel Arzu, Ombudsman of Belize
Ramada Belize City Princess Hotel
Newton Barrack, Belize City
May 26, 2016
Mr. Eddie Webster, Clerk to the Natl. Assembly
Dr. Roberto Herrera Caceres, Human Rights Commisioner, Honduras and outgoing President of the CACHRO and Defenders
Mr. David Ernesto Morales, Human Rights Defender, El Salvador
Ms. Annabelle Morfin, Advisor to the Human Rights Defender of Guatemala
Other Human Rights Defenders and or delegates from Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala
Ms. Celia Medrano, Rep. of Cristosal Foundation
Amb. Said Guerra, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Members of the Diplomatic Corp and Consular Corp
Members of the Media houses
Ladies and gentlemen:
A pleasant good morning! It is indeed a great honour and privilege to make a few remarks on this momentous ceremony. This occasion is a very important and historic indeed because since the Office of the Ombudsman opens its doors to the public in August 1999, this the first time that such an event is held in Belize. I had a conversation with one Senior Counsel once and he told me that the first Ombudsman of Belize Mr. Paul Rodriquez was the first Belizean to hold the position of President of the Central America Council for Human Rights Ombudsmen and Defenders. I hope to follow in his footstep and do my best to make my country, Belize extremely proud and by extension the region as a whole. I want to express my sincerest gratitude to the Prime Minister of Belize, the Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow and the government for their support for the office of the Ombudsman over the years. I must commend Dr. Roberto Herrera Caceres for his leadership, dedication and passion that he showed during his tenure as President for the past year and I look forward to working with him and all the other members of the Council and together we will continue to advocate tirelessly for the human rights of all of our citizens in this region. I want to also thank CristoSal for sponsoring these events in Belize and for that we are so grateful.
The Paris Principles, set forth at an international workshop in 1991 which broadly established the parameters of what a national Human Rights Ombudsman would do: i) promote awareness of human rights through public outreach and review of legislation; ii) prepare annual human rights reports; iii) receive and investigate citizens’ complaints concerning abuses of public authority.
An institution’s effectiveness ultimately depends on two factors, first, it must gain respect for its functions among public officials, which would entail respect for its independence, supportive budget, and compliance with its resolutions. Secondly, it must establish credibility among the citizenry, which implies building strong ties with civil society.
The Central American Council of Human Rights Ombudsmen is a regional body made up of human rights Ombudsmen and Defenders from Central American region. It was established on May 19, 1994, and its mandate, to promote human rights in the new areas of social activity resulting from the integration process in the region.
In 1999, the Inter-American Commission/Institute for Human Rights was unanimously designated by the CACHRO and Defenders members as the Council’s Technical Secretariat, the technical executing organ whose responsibilities include preparation and evaluation of the Council’s projects.
In addition, the Secretariat is in charge of steering and supporting negotiations on human rights conventions and treaties and for coordinating and maintaining effective communication among its members.
The bedrock of any thriving democracy such as ours is the local governments. Local governance and community-based development are only possible within the framework of RIGHTS AND JUSTICE. Within the limits of its jurisdiction, the Ombudsmen institution can assist in a somewhat less formalized machinery of justice within local communities thereby reducing stress on the judiciary. In order to achieve this noble objective, it is the responsibility of the Ombudsman institution to advocate for the sensitization of the citizens to their rights and point out to them the advantages of collective action. A well informed citizen is an asset and not a liability to democracy. In the light of this the onus is on our government to further expand the public outreach of the Ombudsman office in each of our country. This is but a humble request on behalf of our citizens.
A regional body of Ombudsmen encourages the sharing of ideas based on experience. By sharing our challenges we can arrive at possible solutions which may emerge from experiences of our colleagues. The Ombudsman’s office helps to protect individual rights and also assist in building democratic state based on the rule of law. This is a serious responsibility which requires collaboration at a national and regional level. Last week Montserrat Solano Carboni, Human Rights Defender, Costa Rica and I attended a CARICOM Ombudspersons Seminar at UWI Faculty of Law, Mona Campus in Kingston Jamaica. One of the coordinator of the event spoke highly about the achievements of the CACHRO and Defenders and is looked at as a model Council for CARICOM Ombudspersons.
In conclusion, it is my hope and determination to establish a concrete network with the Ombudsmen of CARICOM in order that our common purpose and our union become more effective for the citizens that we serve, our governments and the offices of the Ombudsmen in the region.
Thank you All and God bless.