CTI receives a warm welcome in The Bahamas to discuss UNCAT ratification

13-15 November 2017, Nassau, The Bahamas: Last week, a CTI delegation visited The Commonwealth of The Bahamas to offer technical assistance to the Government and to share experiences of ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). Approaching its third Universal Periodic Review in January 2018, the visit was a timely opportunity to offer the CTI’s support to The Bahama’s new Government in its efforts to ratify UNCAT.

Some of the participants at the CTI roundtable, Nassau, The Bahamas

The delegation met with the Minister of Legal Affairs and Acting Attorney-General, the Hon. Elsworth Nathaniel Johnson, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Darren A. Henfield, as well as civil society organisations and Friends of the CTI, and facilitated a full-day roundtable discussion. The roundtable brought together 30 senior-level officials from different ministries including internal security, defence, police, corrections, immigration, gender and family, education, attorney-general’s, department of public prosecutions, and foreign affairs.

Lively exchanges between the CTI delegation and the Bahamian participants, and between different government agencies, allowed for free-flowing discussions and sharing of experiences and views. Opening the roundtable, the Hon. Mr. Johnson stated:  

“Our participation today in this process is indicative of the significance which The Bahamas attributes to the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights and of its commitment to the principles of the United Nations and other international bodies that seek to promote and protect such rights. The Government of The Bahamas would like to thank the Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI), particularly the Governments that are taking the lead in establishing this global initiative; Chile, Denmark, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco, to ensure full ratification on the Convention by 2024.We appreciate the technical assistance that you extended to us in April of this year at the Regional session on the UNCAT and for the assistance you are now providing here in our home.”

During the roundtable discussion, which was facilitated by Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat, participants also heard from Denmark, Chile and Ghana on their experiences with ratifying and implementing the Convention. Sharing the experience of Ghana, former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations in Geneva, and CTI member, H.E. Mr. Sammie Eddico (in his personal capacity), told how Ghana had benefited greatly from ratifying UNCAT as well as OPCAT, and in being part of the CTI, such that these international treaties were instrumental in driving change domestically, in particular reforms in the Ghanaian prison system and improving the performance of the police. Chile, represented by Mr. Sebastián Cabezas Chamorro, Chief of the Protection Division to the Vice-Minister of Human Rights, spoke of Chile’s recent adoption of their anti-torture legislation, and the factors that had encouraged Chile to amend their national criminal code.

Following the visit, H.E. Mr. Ib Petersen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Denmark to the United Nations in New York, who headed the delegation, stated that, “Our visit was very encouraging. We see no legal or other impediments in the way of The Bahamas ratifying the Convention. The country has a strong legal framework that prohibits torture and other inhuman treatment in its constitutional bill of rights, and we heard many examples of procedural safeguards in both police and corrections services, and in the criminal prosecution and justice system in general, that will form a very good basis for meeting the Convention’s obligations.” 

CTI would like to extend its thanks to the Universal Rights Group for its support in organising the visit.

For local press on the visit, see here.

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