It happened in the dead of night. At four in the morning, officers from the immigration department swooped in an operation called Rising Sun – but it ended with accusations of violence, claims officers entered a property without a warrant, and a prominent member of a Bahamas human rights group held in custody with family members for hours.
Mona Agenor, the chairperson of Rights Bahamas, was at home when officers reportedly stormed her yard, beat her relatives and handcuffed her.
For its part, the immigration department has spoken out against the “blatant and deliberate assault on our officers” – but questions must be asked about the circumstances that led to the incident spiralling out of control.
It is the details that raise concern. During the raid, Ms Agenor – a Bahamian citizen – called the vice president of Rights Bahamas, who reportedly heard officers shouting curses at the family and one officer saying he didn’t need a warrant to search their home.
Ms Agernor’s mother also reportedly refused the officers entry without a warrant, while her daughter said one officer said that if Ms Agenor didn’t go with them, “he would bodyslam her”.
Video footage seen by The Tribune shows a chaotic scene – including a female officer and a man in plain clothes attempting to grab the phone making the recording. We must ask – if everything is above board, why would it be a problem for the operation to be recorded?
Another officer reportedly took a phone from Ms Agenor as she was talking to her lawyer, saying “Ain no lawyer inside here”.
A scuffle appears to have broken out amid all this, with teenagers getting involved with officers. There is of course no excuse for acts of violence against officers, but with all the questions raised already, one must wonder how the violence was initiated. At least one witness said officers rushed a 15-year-old after he called them “jokey”.
It’s not the first time that concerns have been raised over the actions of the immigration department. In February, for example, officers were filmed putting a suspected migrant in the trunk of a car – an action the department defended. Rights Bahamas at the time likened the incident to a kidnapping.
We do not wish to play down the threat that immigration officers themselves face in the course of their duties – but they must abide by the rule of law with regard to warrants and the rights of suspects. If they do not, they endanger the people they are investigating – and they endanger themselves, by possibly turning a tense situation into a violent one.
We sincerely hope this incident is thoroughly investigated. The presence of a prominent activist means this incident is unlikely to fade away quietly – but we worry about the other incidents, the ones that take place out of the spotlight, without people present with access to lawyers and fellow campaigners.
And if officers are stopping people from using their phones – it seems they’re trying to make sure that things take place out of sight, out of mind.
Let’s have a little daylight shone on these raids – and be sure that rights are being respected, not violated.
Two stories - but can family find answers?
The tragic story of a woman found dead in an Atlantis bathroom has been unfolding in an inquest this week – with conflicting stories from pathologists over her death.
Local pathologist Dr Kiko Bridgewater conducted the first autopsy of Carla Van Eeden, while a South African pathologist, Dr Linda Liebenberg, carried out a second autopsy that to her raised concerns that the incident was not a suicide, but “ligature strangulation” with the body then put in position to create the impression that she was hanged.
With two different stories, the family will undoubtedly be left seeking answers – how can one autopsy say one thing, but a second say another? Were things missed in the first autopsy? How thorough was the investigation?
Thankfully, Atlantis themselves can provide some of those answers – the hotel’s surveillance system is there to provide answers in these situations, and their recordings showed no suspicious entry by anyone to Ms Van Eeden’s room before her death.
All the same, we hope that the differences between the two autopsies can be resolved at the inquest – to bring peace to Ms Van Eeden’s family as they wrestle with a horrible situation.