Save The Bays invites International Observers to upcoming hearings amid concerns over fairness and impartiality; threat of further release of private information despite landmark Supreme Court ruling.
Environmental group Save The Bays (STB) is expressing grave concern over the decision to move forward with hearings before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee following the landmark Supreme Court decision vindicating their right to privacy.
STB chairman Joseph Darville said the group fears the hearings will be used to broadcast further private information belonging to its members, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled such disclosures unconstitutional and fined Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald $150,000 for an earlier breach.
“Save The Bays feels totally vindicated by the wise and proper actions of the Supreme Court and surprised that these hearings are proceeding at all considering the judge’s ruling and the fact that the matter is now before the Court of Appeal. We can only imagine that they intend to use this venue to try and justify the further release of our private information in violation of the Constitution of The Bahamas and in the face of the House Speaker’s own admission that the disclosures should not happen again,” Darville said.
“We are also gravely concerned about the nature of these proceedings as a whole. Senior members of the government have openly expressed an interest in holding us in ‘contempt of parliament’ and imprisoning us. With a committee chaired and dominated by members of the very same government we are somehow supposedly trying to destabilize, our accusers are effectively also our judges, jury and executioners. This is a clear violation of our constitutional right to due process and flies in the face of every international norm when it comes to impartiality and the fair administration of justice.”
Darville pointed out that the matters to be considered by the committee arose from an action brought by STB against an admitted major financial contributor to the governing party. He questioned how a neutral observer could avoid the impression that the hearings and threat of imprisonment is anything other than a case of politically motivated “revenge”.
I am in no way questioning the integrity of any member of the committee,” he said. “But as we know, justice must not only be done, but also be seen to be done. This is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy.”
In order to protect their rights and ensure that the rule of law prevails, STB has formally invited several human rights groups and international oversight bodies to send observers to the hearings and briefed them on the context, including the ruling by Justice Indra Charles and the campaign of violence, threats, intimidation and harassment against STB members which sparked the controversy in the first place.
The groups invited include: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL); and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
We remain in active communication with these groups, forwarding them any and relevant information on this matter on a daily basis. It is a shame that the opinion of the Supreme Court is no longer good enough in The Bahamas, but if we have to appeal to the international community to protect ourselves from totally unfounded allegations and persistent attempts to paint us and our organization in a false light, we will not hesitate to do so.