Bahamas Government Balks at IACHR Communication

Protestors kettled by the Toronto Police during the G20 Summit in Toronto on June 26, 2010Protestors kettled by the Toronto Police during the G20 Summit in Toronto on June 26, 2010

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in a November 4th communication to the Bahamas government granted protective measures in respect of five Bahamians associated with the Save the Bays environmental lobby group.

After local authorities largely disregarded complaints that their lives were in danger, the five members of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association turned in desperation to the IACHR with the request that it urge the Bahamian government to ‘adopt necessary measures to protect the lives and personally integrity of the identified members’ and ‘prevent irreparable harm to their lives.’ Hate rallies were organized against them with paid demonstrators and inflammatory placards, one of their law offices was broke into and his home vandalized, there were confrontational attacks in the street and explicit death threats, one of their cars was set on fire, without any police investigation. Following its own investigation of the facts, the IACHR requested the Bahamian government take suitable action to protect the lives of these men and their families, to ensure they could ‘pursue their work as human rights defenders without being subject to threats, harassment or intimidation.’

In a curt statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration expressed its intention to apply for a review of the precautionary measures at the earliest opportunity by the Commission, in consultation with the Government, and will request that the measures be modified or lifted. They communicated their regret that the IACHR had granted the petition without hearing any factual or legal submissions from the Bahamas, which were purportedly based ‘solely on the one-sided representations made by the named individuals.’ The Ministry expressed its frustrations that the Commission took this action ‘despite periodic communication from the Government that while the matter was under review a formal response was being finalized and would be issued soon.”

Critics have taken issue with the Ministry’s blasé use of the word ‘soon’, citing the still-awaited results of the behind-closed doors hearings of the Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Detention Centre about three years ago, allegedly beaten by some of the guards. On that occasion, the Ministry said the matter was under investigation, neglecting to address the grievous injuries suffered by a number of the Cubans who were later released. Although the hearing of this case was to be before an appointed panel, no more has been heard from it. The Cubans were repatriated so quickly they were not present to give evidence, and it remains to be seen whether anyone went to take their testimony. Now, news sources are wondering how long the Ministry will take before it reports to IACHR in this present case what protection it will afford to the complainants.

Much of the five individuals evidence has been verified with photos and tapes. This raises questions about how the Ministry can find their claims ‘were not properly grounded in facts and were without evidentiary support or legal merit.’ One wonders where a citizen can seek protection of their human rights, if the government is unwilling to do so themselves, or take heed from an external body advising them to do so.

 

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.