By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas qualified as an “armed conflict zone” with high rates of gun violence according to findings from the United Nations’ and the World Health Organization’s 2014 Global Status Report on Violence Prevention.
The findings placed the country at number 11 out of 20 of the most homicidal countries in the world.
A report published by Business Insider, based on the findings, said instances of robbery, rape and homicide are common throughout the Bahamas.
According to the Global Status Report on Violence Prevention, there were on average 32.1 murders in the Bahamas per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012 with 75 per cent of homicides caused by firearms.
The Business Insider report added that “this tropical paradise technically qualifies as an armed conflict zone,” according to the WHO.
“Between 2006 and 2011,” the report said, “crime in the Bahamas rose by 49 per cent, The Tribune reported last year. Armed robbery, rape, and homicide are common in the Bahamas. The causes of violent crime range from gang warfare to trivial disputes. Experts at the College of the Bahamas have speculated that the exposure of Bahamian children to violence at home may contribute to their violent behaviour later on.”
When contacted for comment, State National Security Minister Keith Bell said the conclusions drawn from the report were “obviously fundamentally flawed.” He further suggested that the report exaggerated the real crime situation in the country.
He said: “In fairness to our country I would say that those conclusions are obviously fundamentally flawed.
“It is obvious that they are using a very wide brush in their interpretation of ‘armed conflict zones’. My point is that if they say we qualify based on the World Health Organisation’s definition for such zones, then all those developed, developing and under-developed countries around us must be classified as terrorist zones.”
Worldwide in 2012, the report said, there were 475,000 murder victims, 60 per cent of whom were males between 15 and 44 years old. Half of all homicide victims are killed by a firearm, and Latin America is the world’s most murderous region.
Honduras was considered the most homicidal country with 103.9 murders per 100,000 people, according to the report, and 84 per cent of the victims are killed by firearms.
Venezuela, which came second on the list, recorded 90 per cent of killings by firearms, while the report said 70 per cent of the homicides in Jamaica, which was ranked number three on the list, were due to gun violence.
Haiti is listed 12th on the lineup with 26.6 murders per 100,000 people and Trinidad registered 10th. In that Caribbean country, the report said, there were 35.3 murders per 100,000 people and 77 per cent were firearm deaths.
The report came one day after National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage skirted around questions regarding the government’s failure to control the scourge of crime in the country as it had heavily campaigned to do during the 2012 general election.
More than two years since taking office, Dr Nottage told Parliamentarians on Wednesday that the crime situation was the result of a flawed judicial system.
He said the government would direct its focus on tackling those challenges with the system in order to bring crime to a reasonable level.
The country’s murder count for the year, up to press time according to The Tribune’s records, was 116. Police recorded 119 murders in 2013.
The UN and WHO’s report is similar to a study done by the Inter-American Development Bank that was released just one year ago. At that time, the Bahamas was considered as almost qualifying as an armed conflict zone.
That report, which measured homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, said the murder rate over the last several years was about three times a level that constitutes an epidemic, roughly equivalent to a conflict zone, and continues to be one of the highest in the region.
The statistics were included in the Inter-American Development Bank Country Strategy for the Bahamas. It revealed that in 2010, this country had the highest prisoner to population ratio in the region and one of the highest in the world – with nearly 70 per cent of prisoners still awaiting trial.
Between 2005 and 2011, the report noted, crime against persons and property rose 49 per cent.