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[ annual report 1999 ]


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Map of Bahamas (the Commonwealth of the)
AI REPORT 1999:
BAHAMAS


Two people were hanged. Five men who were scheduled to be executed were granted reprieves. About 20 people remained under sentence of death at the end of the year. Asylum-seekers were among hundreds of Cubans forcibly repatriated to Cuba.

    Trevor Fisher, sentenced to death in March 1994, and Richard Woods, sentenced to death in January 1995, were hanged in October. The two men were executed despite requests from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (iachr) that the executions be suspended at least until the iachr had issued its decisions on whether their rights guaranteed under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man had been violated. The government of Prime Minister Hubert Alexander Ingraham rejected these requests even though, on the eve of the executions, the iachr informed the government that it expected to deliver its decisions within two weeks. The executions were scheduled following a ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (jcpc) in the United Kingdom, the Bahamas' highest appeal court, that executing Trevor Fisher while his case was pending before the iachr would not violate the Constitution of the Bahamas or domestic law.

    Four men _ Roger Chad Goodman and Anatole McQuay, sentenced to death in 1996, and Sean Poitier and Alexander Williams, sentenced to death in 1993 _ were scheduled to be executed in January. Philip Joshua Rahming, who was sentenced to death in 1997, was scheduled to be executed in December. All received reprieves as a result of additional proceedings initiated on their behalf. All five had appeals pending either before the iachr or the jcpc at the end of the year.

    In January, 17 people who had each spent at least five years on death row had their death sentences commuted in accordance with previous jcpc decisions which restrict the length of time a condemned person can be held on death row prior to execution (see previous Amnesty International Reports). About 20 other people remained under sentence of death at the end of the year.

    In July the Court of Appeal granted a new trial to Cecil Musgrove, who had been sentenced in 1997 to six lashes of the cane and 10 years' imprisonment with hard labour after a trial at which he did not have a defence lawyer (see Amnesty International Report 1998). Following a retrial in October, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment. Corporal punishment was not part of the new sentence.

    In June the Bahamas modified a 1994 agreement with Cuba providing for the more expeditious repatriation of Cubans arriving in the Bahamas without prior authorization. Under this agreement, which contains no reference to the Bahamas' obligations under the un Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, the government agreed to provide Cuban authorities with details of all “Cuban illegal emigrants who arrive in its territory” within a maximum of 72 hours of their arrival and to repatriate them within 15 days. At least 190 Cubans had been repatriated from the Bahamas by August, some reportedly without access to full refugee determination procedures or to the un High Commissioner for Refugees.

    In August, in response to a petition filed jointly by two international non-governmental organizations _ the Center for Equality and Justice in International Law and the Forced Migration Projects of the Open Society Institute (the Projects) _ the iachr requested that the government suspend deportation of 120 Cubans. The petition alleged that Cubans were not being afforded necessary facilities or a full and fair procedure to determine whether they were in need of international protection. The authorities continued to repatriate Cubans, including people who had sought asylum, over the course of the year.

    Throughout the year Amnesty International urged the authorities not to carry out executions. In October Amnesty International expressed deep regret at the executions of Trevor Fisher and Richard Woods. The organization expressed concern that by hanging them while their cases were pending with the iachr, the government had irrevocably denied them effective international protection. Amnesty International urged the government to abolish the death penalty and, as a preliminary step, to propose and support the enactment of legislation which would create alternative non-capital punishments for murder.

    Amnesty International wrote to the government in June seeking assurances that all foreign nationals arriving in the Bahamas seeking asylum would be given meaningful access to full and fair procedures to determine whether they were in need of international protection, in accordance with international standards.

    In September Amnesty International and the Projects expressed concern that the procedures in place and the time limits contained in the agreement between the governments of Cuba and the Bahamas rendered a full and fair determination of a claim for protection improbable. The organizations urged the government to take steps to ensure that all asylum-seekers were treated in accordance with international standards.


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