NASSAU, Bahamas (CMC) — The Bahamas government has taken issue with the reports of the United States and Amnesty International on human rights issues in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.
The Perry Christie government in separate statements said that it is preparing an official response and intends to issue a “formal protest’ on the matter.
The government said that prior to the release of the US State Department’s 2016 report on human rights in The Bahamas, the government spoke with representatives of the United States government prior to the release of the report on human rights in the Bahamas.
“During those conversations, it was made clear to the US that the proposed report contained significant inaccurate information with no basis in fact and in some cases incomplete information.
“Now that the US report has been publically released, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration is preparing an official response from The Bahamas Government and intends to issue a formal protest in this regard.”
In the report, Washington noted that on July 8, last year, a foreign citizen reported he had been beaten by two or more corrections officers at the Bahamas Department of Corrections (BDOC).
He said that following an altercation with an inmate, prison guards placed him in handcuffs, bent him over a cart, beat him with a PVC plumbing pipe wrapped in duct tape, and then took him back to his cell without providing any medical attention.
The report also indicated that a migrant held in the immigration detention centre in Freeport faced alleged unprompted, regular beatings from the guards, as well as inappropriate sexual behaviour toward female detainees.
“Prison and detention centre conditions failed to meet international standards in some areas, and conditions at the government’s only prison remained harsh due to overcrowding.
“Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate access to medical care remained problems in the men’s maximum-security block. In October 2015 the commissioner of corrections reported the maximum-security block of the prison held 625 inmates in spaces designed to hold approximately 375 inmates when constructed in 1953. The minister of national security reported that the BDOC, which was originally built to hold 1,000 prisoners, held 1,727 inmates as of October 2016.”
The report noted that inmates reported receiving only two meals per day, and often only one, with a meal sometimes consisting only of bread and tea.
“Fresh fruit and vegetables were rare to non-existent. Prisoners also reported infrequent access to drinking water and inability to save potable water due to lack of storage containers for the prisoners. A few cells also lacked running water, and in those cells, inmates removed human waste by bucket.”
The report also noted that prison guards complained about the lack of a full-time dentist and a failure to appoint a staff psychiatrist.
“There were four inmate deaths through October 2015, reportedly due to HIV infection, natural causes, an apparent suicide, and injuries resulting from fighting. Reports from the coroner’s court were pending on the latter two deaths.
“The government did not provide updated statistics in 2016. In August 2016, upon the conclusion of a Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) hearing that was closed to the public, the Bahamian government cleared five RBDF marines accused of beating five Cuban detainees at the CRDC in 2013,” Washington reported.
It also noted that “numerous Haitian migrants reported being detained by immigration officials and solicited for bribes of B$1,000 to B$3,000 (One Bahamas dollar =US$1.00), with the CRDC front office functioning as a clearinghouse.
“Many claimed that immigration officers targeted their dwellings once their undocumented status was discovered demanding multiple bribes. Haitian migrants and civil society organizations complained of frequent warrantless searches of Haitian homes without probable cause.”
Regarding the 2016-17 Amnesty International report, the London-based human rights group criticised Nassau for its ““discriminatory” posture towards lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and for the country’s constitutional referendum on gender equality.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the “government takes no acts to discriminate against people based on their orientation, race, colour, creed, gender or religion.
“The Bahamas Government shows that it is an equal opportunity protector of all citizens and residents of this country. In addition, the Government takes all appropriate steps to ensure that its citizens of whatever description are safe.
“It is unfortunate, even in countries which are strong democracies with good human rights records, when there are public views espoused that are discriminatory. Nevertheless, The Bahamas Government is firmly committed to the protection of all its citizens.
On the question of right to privacy of citizens, the Bahamas government said it wanted to reiterate “without qualification there is no threat to privacy in the Bahamas.
“The reports of any such threat are entirely misplaced,” it added.