By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
A JAMAICAN woman alleged to have been raped by an immigration officer has filed a civil suit against the government seeking damages for battery, assault, false imprisonment and the breach of her constitutional rights.
In a writ filed in the Supreme Court yesterday, the Attorney General, Minister and Director of Immigration and Commissioner of Police were accused of being liable for the alleged unlawful conduct committed by police and immigration officers in the incident.
In her claim, the woman describes a crowded and filthy detention centre with menstruating females left to bleed out on the floors and with no sanitary napkins or washing facilities.
Immigration officer Norman Bastian, who is facing rape charges, was named as the fifth defendant. Bastian, 53, last week stood before Magistrate Andrew Forbes facing the charge nearly two months after an investigation was launched into the alleged sexual assault.
The investigation followed a report in The Jamaica Gleaner.
According to the writ, the woman was employed as a bartender in Montel Heights, when she was arrested during a police raid.
The raid was conducted around 1am on Saturday, December 13, and allegedly involved at least 30 police officers.
“The Police turned off the lights inside the bar and with an aggressive tone demanded all Bahamians to go on one side of the bar and all Jamaicans to go to the other side of the bar,” the writ read.
“Of the people who were inside the bar at the time, those who were both female and Jamaican were instructed by the Police to board a bus which was parked outside.”
The writ continued: “(she) is a Jamaican citizen. Her husband is a Bahamian citizen. At all material times (she) was in possession of a spousal permit permitting her to remain in The Bahamas. The original of this spousal permit had been lost by (her) prior to 12 December 2014. However, (she) had reported its loss to the Grove Street Police station and to the Immigration Department, and the latter had issued her with a photocopy of the permit.”
It added: “She had this copy on her person on the night of 12 to 13 December 2014 when she was unlawfully detained by the police.”
The woman was taken with 11 other women to the Central Police Station on East Street, where she was detained overnight. She alleges that while at the Central Police Station, a female police officer told another officer “you should put them in a barrel and sink them”, referring to the group of women.
When the woman’s husband went to the Central Police Station to ask for his wife’s release, it was alleged that a female officer told him “she’s a Jamaican and should be sent back home”.
On December 12, she was transported from Central Police Station to the Central Detective Unit. The Jamaican Honorary Consul, Patrick Hanlan, visited her at CDU; however, she was not released despite his intervention. She was then transported to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre (CRDC).
The writ read: “Upon (her) arrival at the Detention Centre, her cellphone and all of the documents in her possession (sic), She kept the copy of her spousal permit in her bosom showing it to every (sic) she encountered but no one paid her any attention.”
“The conditions in the Detention Centre were inhumane and degrading. The centre was grossly overcrowded. Hundreds of women, children and babies were lying crowded together on the floor.
It continued: “(She) had to step over people in order to find a free space on the floor in which she could rest. The floor itself was filthy. Certain women who were menstruating at the time had no access to sanitary products and were left with no option but to bleed on the floor, and had done so.
“The toilet facilities were also in a state of appalling filth. (She) was provided with no washing facilities or supplies by the detention centre staff and had to use her own underwear and a piece of soap provided to her by a fellow detainee in order to clean herself.”
The woman was detained at the CRDC until December 15 and the circumstances of her release from the facility is now under criminal investigation.
Last night, Callenders & Co attorney Fred Smith confirmed that the woman will be seeking at least $1m in damages.
Last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the primary agency for the Organisation of American States, issued precautionary measures for immediate action to protect the life and physical integrity of people held in immigration detention at the Carmichael Road facility.
The writ read: “The breaches of the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights were all committed by servants of the Crown in positions of trust and responsibility, which positions carry with them an obligation to safeguard and uphold the rule of law and The Constitution.”
It continued: “In the premises, it is averred that the First (Attorney General) and Fourth Defendants (Commissioner of Police) are vicariously liable for each constitutional rights violation committed against the Plaintiff by the unnamed police officers referred to above, and the First, Second (Immigration Minister) and Third Defendants (Immigration Director) are vicariously liable for each false imprisonment committed against the Plaintiff by those immigration officers referred to above, including the Fifth Defendant (Bastian).”