Belize: EU, MHA and New Growth Inaugurate New Lab for NFSS

Belize – The European Union, together with the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, today officially inaugurated the new Laboratory Spaces for Histopathology and Toxicology at the Belize National Forensic Science Service (NFSS) and handed over the state-of-the-art scientific and medical equipment that will greatly enhance the NFSS capacity moving forward.

This donation is the last in a series of donations of equipment to the NFSS by the European Union (EU) and includes a set of histopathology equipment and a liquid chromatograph with
tandem mass spectrometry detector for toxicology analysis by the 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”.

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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 the 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 and medical services in several SICA Member States, including Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, was improved with the donation of the latest generation equipment.

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:

1. Upgrading investigative units, forensic institutes and regional networks and streamlining processes to increase the efficiency of criminal investigation and judicialization.
2. Strengthening the regulatory framework to further facilitate cross-border criminal investigation and prosecution.
3. Consolidating a regional community of practice amongst the actors of the criminal investigative and prosecution chain by strengthening specialized and shared knowledge.
4. Supporting joint regional investigations and operations against transnational crime and contributing to the dismantling of regional criminal structures.

The donated equipment will allow for the expansion of the scope of forensic science services provided by the Belize National Forensic Science Service to the criminal justice system, with an emphasis on strengthening ancillary testing in support of medicolegal death
investigations. The total value of the equipment officially 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 EUR375,000.00.

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In addition to the latest generation equipment, the NFSS 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.

Present at the inauguration were the European Union Ambassador H.E. Marianne Van Steen, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, Hon. Kareem Musa, Commissioner of Police Mr Chester Williams, President of the University of Belize Dr Vincent Palacio, Director of Public Prosecution Cheryl Lynn Vidal, Executive Director of the National Forensic Science Service, Mr Gian Cho and other invited guests representing the Magistracy, Diplomatic Corp, and government agencies.

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