Bahamas PM responds to UN human rights report
NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) – Bahamas Prime Minister Phillip Davis has expressed concern at the damning human rights report on the country by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WAGD).
In its preliminary report released here earlier this month, the WAGD called on the authorities to do more to ensure people under arrest are given access to legal representation.
“The Working Group interviewed numerous detainees who were deprived of any legal representation at the initial stages of the proceedings because they did not have the financial means,” the WAGD said in its preliminary report.
The WGAD visited the country from November 27 to December 9 and visited 10 facilities and interviewed over 130 people in detention.
In its report, the WGAD said also that people are too often arrested without a warrant, and arrests are sometimes based on outdated or expired warrants. It also found that detainees are often detained for significantly longer than 48 hours without court-granted extensions.
“The Working Group received information that some detainees suffered vision loss due to their detention in darkness,” the report said, noting also recurrent complaints about detainees’ inability to access medical care and the absence of treatment for drug-dependent people.”
Speaking with reporters, Prime Minister Davis said his administration has been working towards rectifying some issues contained in the report.
“Well, I am always concerned about these issues, particularly as it relates to human rights, because we have for quite a long time, this is a legacy issue that has been plaguing our administration of justice, to the criminal side of it, for quite a long time and we need to address it. I’m concerned about it and I don’t need a UN report to tell me some issues we have and we are addressing these issues as best as we can,” he told reporters, adding “The UN have to appreciate that we are a country of limited resources and we have a lot of competing interest to attract our attention for resources.
“So, we are doing what we can within the limits of our resources and so we hear them and we understand what they’re saying, but we also have other responsibilities to discharge and that requires resources and we have to be able to share those resources effortlessly across the spectrum where the needs are most crucial and urgent,” he said.
Soon after the release of the report, the country’s National Security Minister, Wayne Munroe, in criticising the document WGAD report, said the experts did not provide proof of many of their accusations about the country’s criminal justice system.
Munroe said he found the report alarming, adding that it had inconsistencies.
“This report says that the evidential threshold to prove that a confession was a result of ill-treatment is high. The group reports that an accused has to prove that he was beaten. That is not the law in this country as you all know. The law in this country is that we must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the confession was taken without oppression,” Munroe said, urging citizens to trust law enforcement and not the “adverse” report findings.