Munroe: Marines Want Public Hearing
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Marines accused of abusing a group of Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre said they did not use their side arms to subdue a group of Cubans who attempted to escape the facility because they had no confidence in their commodore or the minister of national security to stand behind them their Attorney Wayne Munroe said recently.
The disciplinary hearing of the four marines is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today at the RBDF base in Coral Harbour Munroe said, who believes it should be open to the public.
“When I ask them (my clients) why they did not shoot these ‘fellas’ when they made it to the fence, as would happen in every other facility like that, they told me the shotguns with the rubber bullets weren’t working, haven’t been working and one of the marines actually got cut up on his arms and hands climbing over the razor wire, which should never happen,” he said.
“When I asked them why didn’t they shoot them they said because the command structure up to the commodore, they weren’t confident would stand by them. “They definitely weren’t confident that the politician, the minister of national security would stand by them. And that’s because they aren’t sure that the Bahamian public stands behind them.
“So this thing must happen in the public so that the public can understand what it is happening with the soldiers with whom we employ.”
Munroe said his first point in the hearing would be to ask that the government pay the marines legal fees. “The government should be paying for this,” he said.
“Could you imagine that your job is to do something, you do it, something happens and you have to put your hand in your pocket to pay to vindicate yourself? That can’t be right.
“I would feel guilty charging these men when all they were doing was their duty.” Munroe said he would not allow the government to “railroad” his clients in the “secrecy of shadow”.
Disciplinary hearings at the base are usually held in private, but given the public interest in the matter it should be public Munroe said.
When asked if he would raise the issue today, Munroe said: “Sadly the Defence Regulations doesn’t really call for that.
“It is something they should consider. Certainly it is far better for people to observe it for themselves than to get secondhand reports from people like me or the other side as to what happened in the hearing.”
Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage said last week that the hearings would be private to “avoid publication of matters which may compromise national security”.
Munroe, who was previously representing one marine, is now representing all four men, a petty officer, a leading hand and two marine seamen.
He told The Guardian previously that the hearing was postponed.
The men are accused of allegedly abusing Cuban detainees at the detention center after some of the detainees attempted to escape the facility nearly four months ago.
The allegations have brewed a firestorm of controversy and protests from a group of Miami-based protestors who labeled the incident as an “abuse of power”.
Munroe said his clients deny the allegation.
Munroe said he understands that two lawyers from the Office of the Attorney General, one of whom is a Defence Force officer, may be leading the case against the marines.
He said the four marines could face stoppages of pay, a reduction in rank or other disciplinary actions that would be placed on their record.
Nottage said last week that the hearings are comparable to a trial before a magistrate’s court, though he added that the hearings are not criminal in nature.
At the time he would not reveal the names or the number of marines that were implicated.
Nottage said that though the hearings would be private, they would be recorded on camera and a full report would be issued at their conclusion.
He added that three independent observers would be permitted to attend the hearings in order “to assure the public that the proceedings are transparent and just”.
By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Guardian Staff Reporter