Soldier’s death sparks discussion on abuse/ misconduct within BDF

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

There have been numerous petitions demanding that the culture of abuse and violence in the Belize Defence Force be investigated, most of which have fallen on deaf ears.

by Khaila Gentle

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 8, 2022 The death of 23-year-old Micah Miguel, a Belize Defence Force soldier, has left her family reeling and has once again sparked calls for investigations into the culture of abuse, bullying, and subsequent silencing of victims that is reportedly pervasive in the military.

Miguel died of suicide, and the matter of her death was brought to the attention of the media by her grieving family after they were forced to bury her prematurely due to what they allege was mishandling of her body by the Police Department. Miguel’s relatives also spoke of the abuse and mistreatment she received at the hands of her own colleagues, which they believe pushed her to her death.

This is not the first time that individuals have attempted to sound the alarm on the toxic environment that has been reported to exist within the Belize Defence Force.

In January of 2020, following allegations of sexual violence and misconduct in the BDF, a petition calling for transparency within the Belize Defence Force was launched. The goal was to reach a mere 7,500 signatures. At present, two years later, only a total of 5,032 persons have signed.

A similar petition was launched in that same year by retired BDF captain Derricia Castillo-Salazar. The purpose of her petition was to urge the Human Rights Commission of Belize to conduct a full investigation into “human rights violations” in the military.

“Numerous times, the persons reporting being assaulted while on the Belize Defence Force’s numerous camps and training grounds, were labeled ‘troublemakers’ by their fellow military officers and forced to endure severe retaliation and harassment,” wrote Salazar in the description of her petition.

Several pleas have been made to the administration at the Belize Defence Force to apply greater pressure when it comes to sexual misconduct investigations, and investigations regarding abuse, bullying, and victimization, but those pleas ultimately have fallen on deaf ears.