New laboratory space inaugurated at the National Forensic Science Service in Belize
The donated equipment will allow for the expansion of the scope of forensic science services provided by the Belize (NFSS) to the criminal justice system, with an emphasis on strengthening ancillary testing in support of medicolegal death investigations. The equipment handed over today, which includes a microwave tissue processor, cold plate, rotary microtome, automatic tissue stainer, binocular microscope, anatomy table, and a liquid chromatograph with tandem mass spectrometry detector (LC-MS/MS), is valued at over EUR 375,000.00.
This donation is the final set of equipment presented to the NFSS by the European Union (EU) through its regional programme “AC1/I-CRIME Project for Cooperation on Criminal Investigation in Central America to Combat Transnational Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking”. This regional initiative was implemented from 2019 to 2022 through a grant to a consortium of EU Member States, led by the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) and benefited from a partnership with the General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System - SICA Directorate of Democratic Security. This regional programme, with a total budget of EUR 21.5 million, aimed at supporting criminal investigation and prosecution chains at different levels in SICA-member countries, focusing on transnational cooperation between the police, forensic departments, prosecutors and the judiciary.
The EU funded AC1/I-CRIME Project in particular, contributed to strengthening the technical capacity of national and regional institutions to fight against organized crime. As part of this effort, the capacity of forensic laboratory facilities and legal medicine services in several SICA Member States including Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, was improved with the donation of latest generation equipment.
The NFSS also benefited under the EU funded initiative from participating in different specialized workshops, activities and capacity building exercises, such as the analysis of mitochondrial DNA, training sessions in forensic pathology, preparation and interpretation of expert reports on forensic genetics, gender violence, among others.
The overall objective of the AC1/I-CRIME project was to improve citizen security in SICA countries in order to contribute to the sustainable development of the region, by addressing the following four components:
- Upgrading investigative units, forensic institutes and regional networks, and streamlining processes to increase the efficiency of criminal investigation and judicialization.
- Strengthening the regulatory framework to further facilitate cross-border criminal investigation and prosecution.
- Consolidating a regional community of practice amongst the actors of the criminal investigative and prosecution chain by strengthening specialized and shared knowledge.
- Supporting joint regional investigations and operations against transnational crime and contributing to the dismantling of regional criminal structures.
Present at the inauguration were Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries Hon. Kareem Musa, European Union Ambassador H.E. Marianne Van Steen, Director of Public Prosecution Cheryl Lynn Vidal, Executive Director of the National Forensic Science Service, Mr. Gian Cho, Commissioner of Police Mr. Chester Williams and President of the University of Belize Dr. Vincent Palacio.