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Ministry says activists’ fears for lives ‘without merit’

THE government last night announced it has asked the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) to lift the precautionary measures it proscribed earlier this month after upholding a claim by five Bahamians that their lives are in danger because of their political advocacy and that some have had to flee the country.

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Fred Smith

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration responded to the international human rights body on Tuesday and said it had found the claims of the Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association on behalf of the five men - Fred Smith, Joseph Darville, Romauld Ferreira, Franciso Nunez and Kirkland Bodie - to be “baseless and without merit”.

In a statement, the ministry said: “Having thoroughly investigated the claims made the Petitioners of the Save The Bays - Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, the Government has requested that the Commission lift the precautionary measures of November 4, in accordance with Rule 25 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure. Further, the Government requests that the Commission urgently reviews the measures, in consultation with The Bahamas and any other parties as may be necessary.”

The IACHR granted the precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to the lives of the petitioners, having found that the five men are in “a serious and urgent situation since their lives and personal integrity face an imminent risk of irreparable harm”. In its ruling it said it required the Bahamas government to adopt the necessary measures to protect their lives and those of their families, to ensure the men could pursue their work as human rights defenders without being subject to threats, harrassment or intimidation, to agree with the petitioners on the measures to be adopted and to report on investigative actions taken.

However, the government said last night that the IACHR had granted the precautionary measures “regrettably” before it could respond definitively, depsite a diplomatic note to say a response was being prepared and without recourse to the government.

“On 27 September 2016, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas received from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) a request for information concerning the submission made by Petitioners Fred Smith, QC, Joseph Darville, Romauld Ferreira, Franciso Nunez and Kirkland Bodie in their request for precautionary measures submitted 6 September 2016 to the Commission,” the ministry statement read. “Regrettably, before The Bahamas could respond definitively to the Commission’s request for information, and despite a Diplomatic Note from the Bahamas dated 3 October 2016 indicating that a response was being prepared, the Commission on 4 November 2016, without recourse to the Government, granted the precautionary measures, by Resolution 54/2016. This was notified to The Bahamas by letter dated 8 November 2016.

“In light of the gravity of the allegations made by the Petitioners, it was the view of the Government that it was necessary to conduct a thorough review of the claims made by the Petitioners in order to submit a comprehensive report to the Commission. That comprehensive report has now been submitted within the time frame proscribed by the Commission.

“The Petitioners have alleged that they were living in urgent fear for their lives, safety and freedom because of their work as human/environmental rights defenders and that the relevant authorities failed to protect their right to life and personal integrity. The Government has found no proof of these allegations and therefore asserts there is no fear for the lives, safety and freedom of the Petitioners as they have claimed. Furthermore, the evidence has revealed that the Petitioners have been moving freely within and outside the country.”

The ministry said the five men had alleged they had access to detailed plans of harm “but are unwilling to share them with proper law enforcement officials, and they have failed to co-operate otherwise with the Police. This in and of itself shows that there is no urgency to the claims they have made.”

The statement said the government in its response had reaffirmed the importance it attaches to the protection of and respect for the human rights of all of its citizens. “Furthermore, the Government will take the necessary action by the State agencies to continue to monitor the situation with respect to the Petitioners and take pre-emptive action if required to not only ensure their safety, but to continue to provide an environment in which they are free to continue their work as environmental/human rights advocates,” it said.

Comments

licks2 7 years, 7 months ago

Our MOFA is just too childish for the position that he is continuously given at that agency! I don't know what in the world he will say when the UN comes here and investigate all this crap going on with Nygard, Toggie and BO BO, and PLP cronies etc.

Voltaire 7 years, 7 months ago

I believe they are already here...

sealice 7 years, 7 months ago

they are here, and the reason they came was because they knew that after 1 month with no response other then the cursory note "we gonna get back at ya...." they decided to look for themselves and i can't wait till we get to see the laundry list they come back with

Tarzan 7 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Mitchell's response to this mess is vintage tyrannical. It is exactly the response that countries like Zimbabwe, Cuba, China and Russia employ when their civil rights records are questioned. "There is no problem. These are just political trouble makers. Nothing to see here. Move on."

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