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TCI HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION ON GOVERNMENT COVID-19 POLICIES

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#TurksandCaicos – April 30, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Government recently announced the following policies with a view of mitigating against the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic:

  1. mandatory vaccination as a condition to obtain a work permit (both new and renewal).
  2. mandatory weekly testing of public facing public servants who decide not to be vaccinated.
  3. requiring vaccines to obtain benefit in certain circumstances (e.g., easier re-entry into TCI for vaccinated residents, etc.)

The Human Rights Commission is mandated to take appropriate steps to protect the rights of all residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands and in doing so must act in accordance with the Islands’ Constitution which enshrines various human rights as fundamental rights and freedoms to be enjoyed by all residents of the Islands. Whilst some human rights are absolute, others can be derogated when required by circumstances of public emergencies. The Constitution, like other human rights conventions, allows for the Government to derogate some of the non-absolute fundamental rights during periods of public emergency.  

The Commission has considered the policies of the Government and agree that it is empowered under both the Constitution and international conventions to derogate some of the non-absolute rights.  In so doing, the government is required to balance the protection of rights against public safety while ensuring that absolute rights are maintained. In the case of the Covid-19 policies, the right of one individual not to be vaccinated must be weighed against the right to life of the general population.  This balancing act is a key component of democratic societies. In seeking to balance, the Government must act reasonably, proportionately and in the best interest of the greater population.

The following is a consideration of relevant fundamental human rights:

The right to life (Section 2 of the TCI Constitution)

This is an absolute fundamental human right and cannot be derogated. Accordingly, the Government cannot deliberately take a person’s life. This includes a duty to take proactive, reasonable steps (not all possible steps) to protect a person’s life; and applies when Government knows (or ought to have known) that life is at serious and immediate risk. In a health setting, reasonableness is judged against broadly accepted medical opinion. It is the Commission’s view that the Government has taken reasonable, proportionate, and pro-active steps to protect the lives of its citizens and residents.  None of the Government’s actions places any life at serious and immediate risk.

The right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment (Section 3 of the TCI Constitution)

This is an absolute right and protects against serious physical or mental harm from the Government, whether that harm is intentional or not. The Commission views the Government’s action as proportionate and adequate to protect the general public of harm (both mental and physical).  None of the actions will result in inhumane or degrading treatment or harm.

Right to liberty (Section 5 of the TCI Constitution)

This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated.   A person is deprived of their liberty when they are living under constant supervision and/or control and they are not free to leave.  The right can be restricted when necessary, under very specific circumstances.  A deprivation of liberty is only allowed if it is lawful, legitimate, and proportionate including for the purpose of ‘the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases. ’Government’s action to implement the policies for the purpose of the prevention of Covid-19.  The actions are reasonable and proportionate and does not extremely restrict people’s movements.

The right to private and family life (Section 9 of the TCI Constitution

This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated.  It protects our right to respect for private and family life including physical and mental wellbeing and autonomy (e.g., being able to make decisions about your health and care).  Condition of vaccination to enjoy certain benefits (entry into public places, hassle free travel, etc.) may in normal circumstances be a contravention of this fundamental right.  It is the Commission’s view that the Government action to derogate this right is warranted under the period of emergency and the derogation of the right is both reasonable and proportionate.  Persons are allowed to make the choice about their health however, the government has placed reasonable and proportionate restrictions based on the choice made in the best interest of the population at large.    

The right to be free from discrimination (Section 16 of the TCI Constitution):

This is NOT an absolute right and can be derogated.  This right seeks to protect our right not to be discriminated against and means that we should all be able to enjoy our human and fundamental rights without discrimination.  Differential treatment of people may not be discriminatory if it can be objectively and reasonably justified.  In this case with the ongoing public health emergency the action by the Government can be objectively and reasonably justified in the best interests of the population.

Case law in the EU and Caribbean

Courts in both Europe and the Caribbean have considered contravention of human and fundamental rights claims in relation to mandatory vaccines and derogation of citizens’ rights in times of emergency and crisis.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Czech Republic did not contravene any of the EU Human Rights conventions by requiring mandatory vaccinations (it was not, however, in relation of the Covid-19 vaccine).

The Court in Trinidad and Tobago ruled that the Governments action to refuse entry of citizens into Trinidad and Tobago was not in contravention of any constitutional and fundamental human rights during a time of crisis.

Conclusion

The Commission is not persuaded that the Government’s policies have contravened any rights enshrined in the Constitution. Further, that the policies as implemented are so done for the protection of the public in this time of emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is reasonable and proportionate and it is in their opinion in the best interest of the greater good.  We do not think that any of the actions by the Government described herein contravenes any human right or fundamental constitutional right of any resident of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Human Rights Commission continues to exercise its role as a watchdog institution and for the protection of rights for everyone residing in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Media Statement provided by the Human Rights Commission of the Turks and Caicos Islands

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TCI News

Joint Operations Result in Interception of Illegal Migrants in Providenciales

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#RoyalTCIPolice, #Providenciales, June 10, 2024 – The Royal Bahamas Defence Force intercepted an illegal sloop transporting SIXTY-SIX (66) irregular migrants on the evening of June 9th, 2024.

The detained group, comprising FIFTY-FIVE (55) males and ELEVEN (11) females, was
intercepted in TCI waters and handed over to the TCI Immigration Task Force for processing.

On June 8th, the Marine Branch of the RTCIPF intercepted a blue and white fibreglass boat
carrying thirty-two (32) irregular migrants.

The boat was spotted 27 miles east of South Caicos and found to be transporting twenty-six (26)
males and six (6) females. The irregular migrants were handed over to Immigration for
processing.

These successful interdictions came following information obtained from a US Customs and
Border Force aircraft.

A joint operation conducted on June 7th has led to the detention of irregular migrants in Blue
Hills. Acting on the information received, authorities detained forty-eight (48) individuals
running along a beach.

Officers conducted extensive searches of surrounding areas, and tragically, the body of a female
was found at Pigeon Pound. Further investigations are ongoing, but it is believed the incident is
linked to a vessel attempting to enter the country illegally.

Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (Specialist Tactical Operations) Mat Newton states, “I
wish to thank all law enforcement agencies for their invaluable assistance in intercepting illegal
sloops attempting to enter the TCI. Your dedication and collaboration have been instrumental in
ensuring national security and protecting our borders. Our Radar, Marine and Drone units, the
TCI Regiment, the Immigration Task Force, and the Customs Department conducted the
operations.

“The RTCIPF strongly condemns the attempts to enter the TCI illegally. Such actions violate the
law and pose severe risks to life, especially in adverse weather conditions.

“We urge those facilitating and encouraging these illegal attempts to consider the severe
consequences. Do not risk your life or the lives of others by embarking on such perilous
journeys.

“I am also grateful to those people from our communities who report suspicious activity relating
to illegal migration and would urge the public to continue keeping us informed.”
The RTCIPF asks the public to notify the closest police station, contact 911, the Serious Crime
Unit at 231-1842, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-8477 to anonymously provide any information on
illegal entry into the TCI.

Additionally, individuals are encouraged to download the Crimestoppers P3 app to share
information anonymously.

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Caribbean News

TCI Sport delegation visits the Cayman Islands and Barbados with key sport leaders

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TCI Sports Commission delegation traveled to the Cayman Islands and Barbados to visit with key Sport leaders. The TCI delegation included the Sports Commission Director, Mr. Jarrett Forbes, Deputy Director, Mr. Alvin Parker, and Facility Manager for Providenciales, Mr. Darian Forbes. The aim of the travel was to visit major facilities, with priorities being pool facilities, and discuss sport development strategies.

The team had the pleasure of being hosted by the Deputy Chief Officer for Sport, Dr. Dalton Walter, and the Director of Sports, Mr. Kurt Hyde in the Cayman Islands; who facilitated the facility tours and shared valuable information on Sports Development. Meetings were held with Deputy Chief Officer Ms. Joan West and Technical Director for the Cayman Islands Aquatics Sport Association, Mr. Jacky Pellerin, on the Cayman Islands’ new 50-meter and 25 meter 10 lanes Mrytha pool facility, as well as with Ms. Shakeina Bush from the National Olympic Office on National Federation development and funding opportunities. The Sports Commission delegation was also grateful for the courtesy call with the Minister of Sport for the Cayman Islands, Hon. Isaac Rankine, and the Chief Officer Ms. Teresa Echenique.

During the Barbados leg of the exploratory travel, the Sports Commission team was hosted by the Director of the National Sports Council, Mr. Neil Murrell, and the Assistant Director of Sports, Mr. Ryan Toppin. The TCI team toured the National Sport Council facilities and visited the Barbados National Olympic Association. Significant to the TCI’s plan to develop an aquatic center, the TCI Sports Commission visited the Barbados Aquatic Sport Association and met with former National Olympic Academy Director, Mr. Dave Farmer, and the President and Second Vice President of the Barbados Swim Association, Mr. Robert Armstrong and Mr. Nicholas Mathis. Insights were shared regarding swimming pool design, development and maintenance as well as pool programming strategies to ensure the growth and sustainability of swimming in the islands.

The TCI delegation also visited other stadium facilities such as Track and Field, Football and Cricket, and other major facilities in Basketball and Boxing. The TCI Sport Commission officials had great discussions with both the Cayman Islands and Barbados sports officials surrounding the development of coaches, athlete development pathways, and strengthening relationships with National Sport Governing Bodies.

Director of Sports, Mr. Jarrett Forbes, said, “We were very grateful for the hospitality and support extended by our Caribbean colleagues. Their support affirmed the commitment and unity among the Caribbean community to develop sports in the region.”

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Crime

Male Charged With Murder

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#TurksandCaicos, June 7, 2024 – A 29-year-old male has been charged with the murder of BUTLER BRAVE PROPHETE. KERLY AGENOR, of Dock Yard, Providenciales, was charged today (June 06th) following advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. In addition to the murder, the accused faces the following charges:

  • Possession of a Firearm
  • Possession of Ammunition
  • Discharge of a Firearm
  • Discharge of Ammunition

The charges against Mr. AGENOR state that on March 05th, 2024, in Providenciales, he murdered Mr. PROPHETE, Contrary to Section 3 of the Offenses Against the Person Ordinance Chapter 3.08.

At the time of his death, Mr. Prophete, 22, of Wheeland, Providenciales, was exiting his workplace on the Lower Bight and was shot dead.

Mr AGENOR remains in custody pending a Sufficiency Hearing.

In a brief statement, Superintendent in charge of Crime, Safeguarding, Public Protection, and Intelligence Dean Holden said: “I wish to thank the officers of the Serious Crime Unit for their dedication and commitment in bringing this case to a charge. Further, I wish to reassure the public and families that the RTCIPF is committed to bringing prosecutions against perpetrators and, when possible, closure to persons who have lost loved ones to these senseless homicides”.

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