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States call for Bahamas to abolish death penalty
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 10:30

 

While the Bahamas was commended for its decriminalisation of same-sex relations, States undertaking a review of the Bahamas’ human rights record were concerned that the country continues to use the death penalty. The concerns were expressed during Bahamas’ review by fellow UN member States under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), held on 23 January 2013.

Positive progress

The State report was given by Ms Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Since the country’s first review, in 2008, the State has introduced human rights training for the judiciary and reformed the judicial system to reduce the backlog of case. The integration of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic legislation through the Child Protection Act of 2009 has contributed to the implementation of international human rights standards. Migrants are better provided for following an ‘aggressive’ review of immigration policies. States welcomed the progress made by the Bahamas in these areas.

 

Discrimination against LGBT persons

Although the Bahamas has decriminalised same-sex relationships, the continuing discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons was raised as an issue of concern by several States (including Uruguay, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States).  

 

Ms Maynard-Gibson responded that while the Bahamas is a Christian nation and therefore opposed to same-sex marriage, any violence against persons on the grounds of sexuality is unacceptable.

 

Violence against women

In her opening statement, Ms Maynard-Gibson spoke of a proposed bill to criminalise marital rape, which had been withdrawn as public opinion was ‘strongly opposed’ to the bill. The United Kingdom, France, and Ireland voiced grave concern with this, and urged the Bahamian Government to continue to raise awareness on the sexual rights of women in marriage and to pass the bill as soon as possible.

 

Since its last review, violence against women, including rape, and domestic abuse has continued to be an issue of concern. Norway, Paraguay, Vietnam, and Turkey strongly recommended that the Bahamas take concrete steps to eradicate this problem. Australia and Uruguay urged the Bahamas to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) as soon as possible, as well as withdrawing reservations to the Convention itself, in an effort to further strengthen the protective measures available to women.

 

Death penalty

Contention surrounded calls from States for the abolition of the death penalty in the Bahamas. There has been a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in the Bahamas since 2000, and a number of States, including Slovakia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Chile, and Hungary commended the delegation on this, which responded to concerns raised in the Bahamas’ first review under the UPR. However, these States strongly urged the Bahamas to formally institute the moratorium as a step towards full abolition of the death penalty.

 

The population’s ‘strong Judaeo-Christian principles’ form the basis for support for capital punishment, stated Ms Maynard-Gibson, adding that the Bahamas reserves the constitutional right to use the death penalty only in the most serious of cases.

 

Other recommendations

Other recommendations included that the Bahamas should:

  • Swiftly ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention Against Torture
  • Further protect the large migrant population of the Bahamas, by ratifying the Convention on Migrant Workers and revise laws currently obstructing some groups of migrants – in particular Bahamian-born Haitians – from obtaining citizenship
  • Raise awareness and pass legislation to eradicate corporal punishment in schools, and to eliminate violence against children

 

The Bahamas received 98 recommendations, and will decide which ones to accept in time for the Human Rights Council’s 23rd session, scheduled from 27 May to 14 June 2013.

 

Heather Collister is a Human Rights Officer and Rebecca McKinnon is an Intern with the International Service for Human Rights. To follow developments in the UPR and at the Human Rights Council as they happen, follow us on Twitter: @ISHRglobal.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 February 2013 12:00
 
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