David Comissiong: Barbados has less regard for human rights than the English. Say it isn’t so!

Raul Garcia case a violation of human rights

“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!”

by David Comissiong

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 sizable 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 Comissiong is a Barbados lawyer and President of the Peoples Empowerment Party

This editorial also appeared in Barbados Today

Original Raul Garcia photo courtesy of The Nation.


Filed under Barbados, Human Rights

12 responses to “David Comissiong: Barbados has less regard for human rights than the English. Say it isn’t so!

  1. robert ross

    Mr Commissiong entered the Garcia arena as a human rights activist rather late in the day after some criticism of inactivty.

    Though he is correct to say that the Church as an institution, to its indelible shame, has maintained an inflexible silence on the Garcia issue he knows that there is at least one representative from its cohorts, whose life has also bridged the gap between University and the Law, who has fought from press and pulpit in Raul’s name.

    Sadly, when Mr Commissiong was approached by him for advice on how best to craft the score Mr Commissiong wasn’t interested. Nor did his presence in Court yesterday rooting for Raul and complete wth the ‘armour of God’ – his collar – peek Mr Commissiong’s interest. Of course, Mr Commissiong knew very well whom he was. But then, for Mr Commissiong, as with the Church in the present dispensation, our errant priest had the wrong skin colour. You work it out.

    Might it not just be that Mr Commissiong is himself at root a living fossil from the dark ages, still a cave dweller, who needs to be reminded that in some respects at least the world has moved on? .

  2. 158

    Commissiong grieves that he cannot be a socialist dictator of Barbados and his wife will never be the “Nation’s Mother” were he so ensconced. He is stuck in the 60, 70’s vision of a socialist/communist Caribbean ideal and is just another myopically misplaced fan of Caribbean socialist/communist society.

  3. just want to know

    Mr Commissiong like to be seen & heard. He is such an advocate for Cuba to join Caricom, why doesn’t he try to organise discussion with the Cuban hierarchy to take one of their own bred & born. Mr Garcia is a Cuban born, and any man woman or child born & lived in a country, that is where Bajans says their navel string buried. Why is he trying to burden our country with an x convict. Take him & deposit him at the Cuban embassy and let them deal with him.

  4. 158

    BFP what happened to my comment bewzing Comissiong? You deleted/edited it?


    Barbados has less regard for human rights than the English. Say it isn’t so!
    It is So, and BLP and the DLP says SO WHAT.
    We do as we like in all things, Right is more than Jail time , No right in Jail , no Rights out side of Jail.
    No Law in jail no law out side of Jail,
    To Rob The People or the Person of their Time is a CRIME.There is cure for Nature , Yet Man want to make his own to please self.
    make up thing to appear like there working in your favor to reduce and take away Right.

  6. Do Unto Others

    There isn’t one Barbadian, especially the politicians, who if they were in Raul Garcia’s shoes, would know that this incarceration after time served is a travesty on basic human rights.

    158 is dead on when he or she says that Commisiong’s agenda is more about a power play of some throwback communist workers paradise and a dictatorship than it is about fundamental justice.

    Barbados needs to fix this yesterday and not during an election.

  7. I also wonder about commissongs agenda, knowing full well how tightup he is with the cuban ambassador and deputy but cannot get them to soften their hearts toward one of their own. I were him I would be more worried about the disgusting elitism practiced by members of his ilk on the bajan populace while posing as socialists and helpers of the poor. Don’t make me spell it out.

  8. Anonymous

    well well you remember when Commissiong got that grant from the B’s for his foundation and building on Pinfold Street and promptly installed his wife and the maguffy below him and above all others? He’s a constantly-seeking powerworm with all the chances of a snowball in hell.
    O, and PLEASE do spell it out.

  9. Anonymous

    typo, “and” should be “as”.

  10. Anonymous

    in “wife” reference

  11. 223

    I think that the issue of basic human rights is not dependent on who you are, where you come from, or who is your lawyer. We have a bad temper towards any “foreigner” who steps foot on this land if they aren’t tourist and that is bad. We have had “foreigners” who have contributed greatly to this country and we have to stop this hatred as our memories are short as to our history. When our fishermen are held overseas we have a different opinion. When our family went to the U.S in search of better opportunities and stayed there illegally we didn’t see them as law breakers, but prayed and hoped that the U.S government would provide amnesties (which they did) so that they can order green cards for others.

    Our forefathers travelled to and worked in Guyana when Guyana had its good days, in Cuba, in Panama, in the U.K., in South Carolina, New York and the list goes on. Our general comments on this issue are racist, non-humanitarian and senseless and lack a basing on the law. It’s simply, he IS a criminal, ain’t from hey and needs to be packed up and put away. Correction: He was a criminal, IS a Caribbean person and has human rights like everyone else. His prison report as to his rehabilitation is excellent. If his human rights have been infringed, he should have legal recourse. If they haven’t yet, let’s look speedily at getting him home or otherwise in a humane manner. Let not this go down on the pages of history as what we have crafted as our fate.

  12. Anonymous, all in good time. These socialists types are aligned and have been for years with the biggest abusers of female human rights in barbados yet they don’t make a hue and cry about that. Mind u Garcia deserves a home, but why only cry out againt certain things when their colleague practice depravity againt the female populace without so much of a peep from comesssong, and then expect people to take them seriously in barbados. Ha