The Raul Garcia case provides Barbados with a “teachable moment” par excellence! Yet, not one of the supposedly responsible leadership institutions of our society has risen to the challenge of saying anything enlightening or educational to the Barbadian people about this issue.
We have not heard a single informed or constructive word from Parliament, the church, UWI, the Bar Association, the trade union movement, the Democratic Labour Party or the Barbados Labour Party!
These establishment institutions have displayed their civic indifference by studiously failing to intervene in a public discourse in which a sizeable component of the Barbadian public has been shamefully asserting that it is permissible for our nation to indefinitely imprison a non-Barbadian “stranger in our midst”, or to simply “put him on a small boat and send him out to sea”.
Clearly, there is a segment of our populace whose thinking and ethics are still firmly lodged in the pre-historic “dark ages”, and who seem to have little conception of human rights or of international humanitarian law! But how can ordinary citizens know any better when the supposedly enlightened leadership institutions of their society fail to either lead or to enlighten?
The Peoples Empowerment Party would therefore like to step into the breach and inform all Barbadians that the Constitution of Barbados contains within it – both expressed and implied – some of the most advanced concepts of human rights and humanitarian law.
Our Constitution – just like the highly advanced European Convention On Human Rights – stipulates that no person shall be deprived of his personal liberty, except as may be authorised by law in nine specific cases.
One of these cases relates to deprivation of liberty for the purpose of “effecting the expulsion or other lawful removal” of a non-national from Barbados. But the law courts that guide us have time and time again rightfully held that this power to detain or imprison for the purpose of expulsion is subject to the following conditions:-
(1) The Minister responsible for Immigration must intend to deport the person and can only use the power to detain for that purpose and that purpose alone;
(2) The deportee may only be detained for a period of time that is reasonable in all the circumstances and must be set free once a reasonable period has expired;
(3) Furthermore, if before the expiry of the reasonable period, it becomes clear that the Minister responsible for Immigration will not be able to accomplish the deportation within that reasonable period, he should not seek to exercise the power of detention and must set the detainee free;
(4) The Minister responsible for Immigration is also required to act with all reasonable diligence and speed to carry out the deportation.
These conditions are lawful and necessary because every human being possesses something called “human rights”, and it would be a fundamental denial of a man’s human rights to simply lock him up indefinitely if he is not serving a term of imprisonment for a crime committed!
There are many cases – particularly English or Privy Council cases – in which these principles are upheld. Some of the most well known of these cases are: R v Governor of Durham Prison (1984) 1 All England Reports; Re Hardial Singh (1984) Weekly Law Report; Re Suleman Mahmod (1995) Imm. AR; Tan Te Lam v Tai A Chau Detention Centre (1997) Appeal Cases; and The Queen (on the application of “I”) v Secretary of State (2002) Court of Appeal.
These cases relate to persons who had served prison sentences for committing crimes such as burglary, indecent assault and possession of opium, and who, for one reason or another, could not be deported to their country of birth.
Can it really be true that a people whose fore-parents suffered the worst possible human rights abuses at the hands of English slave-masters now have less regard for human rights than the English? Oh, say it isn’t so Barbados!
* David Comission of president of the Peoples Empowerment Party