Fred Smith, QC
Fred Mitchell’s comments at a press conference on Sunday were not based in reality. He can go on paying lip service to the government’s respect for fundamental rights all he wants; actions speak louder than words.
If the Immigration Department is not conducting indiscriminate raids, but rather ‘evidence based checks’ as he purports them to be, how is it that Rose St Fleur, Charline Frederic and Mark Souffrant were detained? How is it that the young children of Maria Cenatus were held for three days, left hungry and without shelter at the Detention Centre?
These people are all Bahamian citizens; what ‘evidence’ could there have possibly been against them? And what about Dahene Nonord? If they have good reason to stop her in the street, then why did they release her back into the population? Why were all of the above-mentioned people released, along with dozens if not hundreds of other who were wrongfully detained?
The answer is simple, as Mitchell full well knows: the claim of evidence based detentions are a fantasy. All the facts point to an indiscriminate net being cast over communities, with illegals sorted from those with status after the fact – a practice which tramples the concept of due process underfoot.
He claims that the Immigration Department’s actions are in accordance with the constitution. How can that be, when people are being deported without access to an attorney, the right to apply for bail, a trial by jury and the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise? The constitution demands all these things.
Mitchell says the checks are conduced according to reasonable suspicion, but adds that they may take place in several locations, including ‘in the public roads’. Yet roadblocks are in themselves unconstitutional, a fact reinforced by a ruling by the Supreme Court of The Bahamas – again, a fact the minister full well knows; or at least should, like any attorney worth his or her salt.
He goes on to say that the department’s records do not show any evidence of abuse perpetrated against detainees. I can only assume the minster is joking. Did he really expect officers who might have been abusive to detail their abuse in a report? The Immigration Department cannot seriously be expected to police itself and until there is true independent oversight of all law enforcement, any such pronouncements of innocence are meaningless.
With reference to his mention of my assault at the hands of Immigration officers, I categorically deny the minister’s suggestion that I may have jeopardized the safety of an operation. If I acted illegally, then I challenge Mitchell to prosecute me before a court of law – a forum which his immigration policy steadfastly avoids!
I also note with some alarm Mitchell’s expressed wish that reporters and editors take his word on these matters. Thank goodness the propaganda dominated days when the minister cut his teeth at ZNS are long gone, and the independent press need take no more heed of a senior officials urgings than the facts would support.
Finally, the minister continues his recent trend of pointing to public support for his initiatives, as if this somehow validates their excesses. In case he has forgotten, modern democracies exist precisely to protect individuals from the tyranny of the majority, not to pull them under its tide.
GRAND BAHAMA HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION