The Americas / Orozco v Attorney General of Belize (Belize Court of Appeal, 29 October 2018)


In August 2016 the Chief Justice of Belize held that s. 53 of the Belize Criminal Code which purported to criminalise private consensual homosexual conduct was unconstitutional in violating the Constitution on a series of grounds: Section 3 (the right to dignity), Section 6 (the right to equality before the law), Section 12 (the right to freedom of expression, Section 14 (the right to privacy) and Section 16 (the right to non-discrimination on grounds of sex).

The Government accepted the findings on Sections 3, 6 and 14 and the read down to effect decriminalisation which resulted. The Government nevertheless appealed against the findings on Sections 12 and 16. The Respondent, Caleb Orozco opposed both grounds of appeal on the basis that they were (a) academic in nature given the other accepted findings and (b) that they were in any event of no merit.

The hearing involved consideration of a range of recent Commonwealth jurisprudence from the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Indian Supreme Court, the High Court in Kenya and the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago.

The CLA, together with the International Commission of Jurists and the Human Dignity Trust, intervened in support of Mr Orozco at first instance and did so again at the hearing before the Court of Appeal. The CLA was represented pro bono by Timothy Otty QC of Blackstone Chambers, Leslie Mendez of Marine Parade Chambers Belize and Debevoise Plimpton LLP.

Argument in the case concluded on 29 October 2018 and judgment has been reserved.