NASSAU, Bahamas — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has issued the following statement on behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas
On Wednesday, 8 November 2016, the Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, received, via its Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS)/Embassy of the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., a letter dated 4 November 2016, enclosing a Resolution of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granting protective measures in respect of five Bahamians associated with the Save the Bays environmental lobby group.
The individuals are Fred Smith QC, Francisco Nunez, Joseph Darville, Kirkland Bodie and Romauld Ferreria.
The Resolution requests the Bahamas to, among other things, “adopt necessary measures to protect the lives and personal integrity of the identified members of Save the Bays and the members of its nuclear families”. It was granted in respect of a petition made by these individuals to the Commission in September of this year through the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, alleging that their lives and personal safety were in jeopardy by “official and unofficial agents” of the State as a result of their advocacy for human and environmental rights in high profile cases involving the Government, and that some of them were forced to flee the Bahamas as a result.
The Government has, by Diplomatic Note issued through the Permanent Mission to the OAS, informed the Commission that it intends 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.
Furthermore, the Government has indicated its profound regret and concern that the Commission decided to grant the precautionary measures without hearing any factual or legal submissions from The Bahamas, and based solely on the one-sided representations made by the named individuals. The Commission took this action notwithstanding that the Government, by Diplomatic Note dated 3 October 2016, informed the Commission that it was in the process of preparing a response, and officials of the Permanent Mission in Washington were in communication with the Commission’s Secretariat with respect to this matter.
In this regard, the Government is currently preparing a comprehensive response to the Commission, in which it will set out the true nature of the facts in this matter, and which will reveal that the allegations presented to the Commission by STB were misrepresented and sensationalized to garner international attention—and disguise the personal motivation behind several of the legal cases they are marshalling before the Bahamian courts.
The Bahamas prides itself on being one of the most stable, open and vibrant democracies in the Americas, where the rights and freedoms of everyone have been protected by the State and its agencies. There is a culture of free speech and debate which has never attracted any retribution or retaliation from Government, nor has the Government permitted such actions by private individuals.
No Government of The Bahamas has ever permitted, condoned, tolerated, encouraged, facilitated and certainly not promoted situations where the lives and physical integrity of any person has knowingly been put in fear of imminent danger of irreparable harm.
It is repugnant to our constitutional philosophy and way of life, and Bahamians would find it distasteful and unthinkable that any among us would paint this picture of our society and nation before an international human rights body, especially for the wrong reasons.
The Government of The Bahamas will therefore do all it can to remove this tarnish from the international reputation of The Bahamas and ensure that the Royal Bahamas Police Force and other law enforcement agencies continue to take prompt action to investigate all complaints by persons and ensure the public safety of all citizens and other persons within The Bahamas.