NASSAU, Bahamas, Friday October 31, 2015 – The Bahamas has been unsuccessful in its attempt to become the first English-speaking Caribbean nation to sit on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
During the vote on Wednesday, 113 out of 192 countries voted for The Bahamas, but it was not sufficient to secure the seat.
“On behalf of the Government of The Bahamas, I thanked the Ambassador and staff of the United Nation’s Mission for The Bahamas in New York for their valiant efforts in seeking to get the country elected to the UN Human Rights Council. We were not successful but the team put in a valiant effort for which they are to be commended, especially having joined the campaign some six weeks ago,” Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Fred Mitchell.
“The campaign was run almost exclusively by the young people of the Foreign Ministry. Their work was extraordinary, backed up the direction of the mature diplomats in the service. Our country has every reason to be proud of them. This will all stand them and the country in good stead for the future. We thank the 113 out of 192 countries that voted for The Bahamas. ”
Seats were secured by Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela.
In a statement issued subsequently, the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) said the country’s failure should serve as a reminder to government that the world is watching as the Bahamas’ human rights standards continue to deteriorate.
The GBHRA said the inability of the Bahamas to get sufficient votes was unfortunate, but reiterated its stance that the government should turn its attention to rights abuses at home before it seeks to police the rest of the world.
“The failed bid is lamentable, in that it reflects poorly on The Bahamas on the international scene. At the same time, we believe the effort to join the council in the first place was nothing but a cynical ploy on the part of government desperate to deflect attention from its record on human rights at home, which sadly leaves much to be desired,” said GBHRA president, Fred Smith Q.C.
The GBHRA said instances of bad treatment of migrants – including detention and deportation without due process, steps taken to deny children of migrants access to education, police brutality, and cases such as the recent one of Jamaican Matthew Sewell, detained for nine years in hellish prison conditions without having been convicted of a crime – are just a few examples of why The Bahamas should be considered unfit for such a post at this time.
“This is not to mention the government’s continued flagrant failure to enact a Freedom of Information Act which would open it up to public scrutiny like the majority of the world’s governments and ensure that the Bahamian public’s human right – to public information – is upheld and respected,” said Smith.
With its campaign to win the seat over, the GBHRA said it hopes the government will turn much needed attention to addressing these critical issues.
“We continue to hope for a day when The Bahamas will rightly be able to take a seat at this institution and make pronouncements on the human rights failings of others with integrity,” Smith said.
But in a response, Mitchell criticized the GBHRA for showing its “anti patriotic streak”.
“Instead of congratulations to our hard working diplomats abroad, the association can only spew bile, misinformation and the usual negative nastiness and exaggeration that have come to define them,” he said.
“The Bahamas received the support of 113 countries but sadly could not get the support of the Bahamian citizen from the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association who claims to be a human rights advocate. How very sad and reprehensible.”