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TCI HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION ON GOVERNMENT COVID-19 POLICIES

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#TurksandCaicos, May 3, 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.

END

Bahamas News

GBPA Statement from Ian Rolle, President

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Re:  GBPA’s Response to fire in the International Bazaar

 

#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – The Grand Bahama Port Authority is aware of the recent fire at the International Bazaar.

The GBPA has engaged, and continues to engage, with operators of the International Bazaar, which include representatives of the Bazaar Association and several property owners, so that we can continue demolition exercises on the dilapidated structures and buildings.

The GBPA is acutely aware of the need to demolish derelict structures within the International Bazaar for the safety of all businesses and visitors. We have performed demolitions in the past at our own cost, most recently in February 2022 when we, in partnership with owners, demolished fire-damaged buildings in the Oriental Section. We have also written to numerous property owners of dilapidated structures over the years to sensitize them to the need to repair or demolish their buildings.

In addition, we have engaged the Government of the Bahamas in advance discussions to approve our requested amendments of the Building and Sanitary bylaws, which would enable GBPA to execute more demolitions in a timely manner and recoup the associated costs.

With the requested bylaw amendments in place, GBPA can continue to make consistent efforts to address the remainder of derelict buildings in the International Bazaar and other dilapidated structures within the city.

The GBPA itself has never owned any part of the International Bazaar but has historically subsidized the Bazaar for many years when owners were no longer maintaining its communal areas.

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Beneath the Waves’ summer camp inspires young Bahamians to become stewards of the environment

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#TheBahamas, August 10, 2022 – While the waters near Great Exuma are renowned for their unmatched beauty, last weekend, more than 40 students spent a day with Beneath the Waves learning the deeper value of the marine ecosystems that surround their islands and act as a bedrock for the Bahamian economy and way of life.

As participants in the non-profit’s summer camp, the young students learned about mangrove and coral reef habitats and the many species that live among them.

They heard about some of Beneath the Waves’ research, including studies of sharks, seagrass and blue carbon, and research methods like underwater video surveys.

Coral Vita Conservancy, which has been working relentlessly to restore coral reefs off Grand Bahama, sent team member Joe Oliver , Director of Restoration Operations, to assist with the camp and provide in-depth information on corals in The Bahamas.

Team ECCO, a North Carolina-based ocean education organization, also provided in-depth lessons on invertebrates and fish.

Long after the taste of ice cream at the end-of-day party has faded, campers will remember learning how to tag a lifelike shark. And they’ll wear their camp t-shirts with pride, remembering this is the day they learned to value the water all around them and what lies beneath the waves.

Eleven-year-old twin sisters Kassidy and Kaylee Burrows described the camp as a highlight of their summer vacation.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Kassidy. “And we learned all about sponges, the water, mangroves, coral reefs — how they protect animals and how they protect the shore — and also about animals themselves, aquatic animals, for example, sea anemones, corals, sponges and sharks.”

Kassidy was especially enthused to share her experience with helping to plant new mangroves.

“We found out how mangrove seeds can actually disperse into the water,” she said.

“And I thought they were going to be small seeds, but, in my opinion, they looked like asparagus kind of.

“We also got to go in the water and plant new mangroves.”

Beneath the Waves’ scientists have been studying The Bahamas’ waters for more than a decade, having helped with the creation and management of conservation policies, including the legislation that made the country’s waters a shark sanctuary in 2011.

The non-governmental organization knows that in continuing efforts to protect The Bahamas’ greatest asset, its natural environment, community buy-in is vital.

And in that context, the value of helping young Bahamians gain these kinds of hands-on experiences and lessons, ones they’ll undoubtedly carry with them through life, can’t be overstated.

Kaylee Burrows is already brainstorming the ways she can apply what she learned in her future career.

While the mangroves piqued her sister’s interest, Kaylee said she was fascinated by coral reefs and the important role they play on a global scale, though she noted they don’t seem to be sufficiently appreciated.

“I learned that The Bahamas has some of the biggest coral reefs in the world,” she said. “We actually put pieces of coral on a pipe to help build a platform for the coral. The reason I chose coral reefs over all of the topics is because we the people of the Bahamas, don’t even recognize how important our islands are. These coral reefs are very beneficial to the whole world.”

Kaylee said she hopes to one day become a veterinarian and an author.

“As a vet, I can help not just land animals, but marine animals too,” she said. “As an author, I can write books on marine biology. I think this experience helped with my future career, and I’m forever grateful.”

Beneath the Waves Managing Director Jamie Fitzgerald said plans are underway to make the camp an annual event.

“We look forward to being able to work more closely with local schools in the islands we frequent, such as Exuma and Nassau, to develop educational materials around sharks and marine science, and to foster opportunities for internships and future careers for any aspiring Bahamian marine biologists,” Fitzgerald said.

 

Photo Captions: 

Header: Hands-on experience – Exuma students planting mangroves with the help of research scientists from Beneath the Waves  — just one of the many memorable moments from the non-profit’s summer camp that was held on July 23. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

1st insert: Learning about coral — With the help of experts from Coral Vita, a Grand Bahama-based organization working to restore reefs near the island, students built plaforms for coral. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

2nd insert: More to come  – Camp leaders and participants posed with the inflatable shark, as the first of what is hoped to be many Beneath the Waves summer camps came to an end. (Photos courtesy of Beneath the Waves)

 

Release: Beneath the Waves

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Caribbean Rising: Regional Heads of Government Meet in The Bahamas Aug 16-17 to discuss Caribbean position on Climate Change Mitigation

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#TheBahamas, August 5, 2022 – The Bahamas will host the first Regional Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean in preparation for COP27 in Nassau, The Bahamas on August 16-17, 2022.

The inaugural event is being introduced by the Government of The Bahamas with the aim of devising a regional position on climate change mitigation ahead of COP 27 which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt November 6-20, 2022.

Invited participants include the Head of State from the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla,

Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.

The Government of The Bahamas intends to establish the meeting as an annual event and will seek to have it instituted as a regular meeting on calendar of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC).

“The Bahamas is introducing this conference as we seek to get results in the climate change fight,” Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas said ahead of the talks.

“The Bahamas, along with the region, has lobbied year after year, meeting after meeting, as we sought for the world to acknowledge our vulnerable position.”

“This meeting will position the Caribbean region to take control of our fate and present a unified position to the world at COP27,” Prime Minister Davis added.

The meeting is also intended to establish a Caribbean response exclusive of the conventional Latin

America-Caribbean pairing in order to better reflect common geographical and geo-political issues of Caribbean states.

“What we’ve been lacking regionally is a strategy that would aid us in our negotiation process when we go to the conferences of the parties referred to as COPs,” says Rochelle Newbold, Special Advisor on Climate Change and Environmental Matters and Climate Tsar in the Office of the Prime Minister in The Bahamas.

“This year will be COP number 27 and, as a region, we have never put forward a strategy document or an intent of how we want to deal with the issues that we face within the region collectively,” Newbold added.

The conference agenda will also focus on renewable energy, energy security, climate adaptation, climate financing, loss and damage due to tropical weather systems and establishing a framework for the sale of carbon credits.

Delegates attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland in December 2021 signed off on a global climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and counter global warming by limiting the temperature rise on Earth to a 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.

The global warming phenomenon has been linked to more frequent and aggressive hurricanes in the Caribbean, which have subjected the region to billions of dollars in damage and bound countries to burdensome loan commitments.

According to the Assessment of the Effects and Impacts of Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas report issued by the Inter-American Development Bank in March 2022,       damage and losses from Hurricane Dorian amounted to US$3.4 billion, a quarter of the country’s GDP.

A heat wave rolling across the United States and Europe is also being attributed to rising temperatures.

The UK recorded temperatures of over 40°C (104°F) for the first time in July 2022, according to local forecasters.

“We know that if we reach that 1.5°C and we exceed it, everything changes for everybody. While land-locked countries and large continents like South America will experience a change, island-states will experience that change three and four-fold.”

“With this meeting we will have all of those who face the same threat level sitting down together, discussing options, considering what is being suggested and how realistic this will be. For us, this is a fundamental thing that we should have been doing a long time ago,” Newbold said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a Chair’s Summary will be made available detailing the scope of the discussions as well as key messages and ideas that emerge. Additionally, the region plans to launch an initiative at COP27 to advance advocacy efforts on behalf of Caribbean States.

 

Photo Caption: During the weekly Press Briefing, at his Office, on August 4, 2022, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis announced that The Bahamas will host the Regional Caribbean Heads of Government Meeting, 16-17 August, 2022 at Baha Mar Resort.  (BIS Photos/Eric Rose)

 

For Press Inquiries:

Clint Watson, Press Secretary

Office of The Prime Minister

Commonwealth of The Bahamas clintwatson@bahamas.gov.bs

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