|Open Letter: Former premier seeks OHCHR intervention|
|TCI News Now|
Wednesday 18 April 2012
Her Excellency, Navanethem Pillay
Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights
52 rue des Pâquis
Ch-12011 Geneva Switzerland
Dear Madam Commissioner,
SEEKING OHCHR INTERVENTION IN TURKS AND CAICOS POLITICAL SITUATION
I am the former Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a country located in the Caribbean and which is a colony of the United Kingdom. I would like to bring your attention to, and seek your assistance regarding, a number of human rights violations that have been taking place in the Turks and Caicos Islands in general, and to me and some of my former Cabinet ministers in particular, because of the stand taken by our political party, the Progressive National Party (PNP), and my Administration which was in office from 2003 to 2009, on advancing and achieving independence for our country.
The violations have been conducted by the British Government and their Interim Administration in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is my submission that their actions contravene the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights plus a number of other international conventions to which the British are a signatory.
BELOW ARE EXAMPLES OF THE CONVENTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN VIOLATED:
(1) UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights
Article 2 states: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”
In my view, the British Government has violated this article. They have discriminated against the citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands because of the colour of their skin and because of our status as a colony. They have also discriminated against the Turks and Caicos Islands citizens because of our desire to seek self-determination. They have taken away a number of our rights under this declaration or refused to grant us some.
Article 7: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.”
Article 8: “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.”
Article 10: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”
Article 11(1): “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”
Article 11(2): “No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.”
Article 12: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
Article 17: “(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”
Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 20: “(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” (2) “No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”
Article 21: “(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
(2) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Furthermore, the British Government and by extension the Interim Administration, are also in violation of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Article 1 reaffirms the right of self-determination; Article 14, the right to a fair hearing; Article 25(a), the right and opportunity to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives, and Article 25(b) grants the right to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands we have not had elections for almost 3 years, although they were constitutionally due two years ago. As such, for the past 3 years the islands have been a virtual dictatorship, operating without an elected government.
Furthermore, the British-appointed Governor has sole executive and legislative powers and in addition, he appoints the Prosecutor and all of the Judges, who have no security of tenure and therefore rely on the Governor and the British government to renew their contracts, creating automatic room for abuse.
(3) UN Charter
In addition, the British are in violation of the UN Charter.
Chapter 1: Purpose and Principles. Article 2. “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.”
Chapter XI: Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories. Article 73. “Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:
(a) to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;
(b) to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement.”
For countries that have adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the first Optional Protocol to the Covenant gives the option of recognizing the Human Rights Committee as qualified to receive and examine communication from individual people. When people or groups of people have exhausted local remedies, the Protocol allows them to petition the Committee directly about their government’s alleged violations of the Covenant.
EXAMPLES OF THE SPECIFIC VIOLATIONS AND ABUSE IN THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we are faced with the following:
1. Denial of our right to self-determination and our right to freely and without fear conduct open national debate in that regard.
2. Denial of our right to hold free and fair elections.
3. Denial of our right to fair trial.
4. Denial of our rights to freedom of expressions and assembly.
5. Introduction of retroactive criminal legislation with the view of securing convictions.
6. Persons were compelled to testify against themselves at a Commission of Inquiry and that information was subsequently used to charge individuals. This is a violation of Article 14 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
7. There is no independence of the Judiciary:
a. The Governor is the sole authority in the colony in that he is the sole person that makes executive decisions, he alone makes legislation and he alone appoints the Prosecutor and the judges. The current governor is Ric Todd.
b. Governor Ric Todd has said at a public meeting that all of the accused former ministers are guilty and will be convicted.
c. Furthermore in an article that appeared in the Miami Herald online on the 9th of April, Governor Todd was quoted as saying that "the elected government has deliberately and systematically stolen the assets of the people of the TCI for personal gains".
In this light, I and former Ministers who have been accused of corruption can never get a fair trial. How can we ever get a fair trial when the person that has the sole power to appoint the Prosecutor and judges in the colony is making such pronouncements before a trial?
8. There is also interference with the right to a political life, with Governor Ric Todd and his Attorney General Huw Shepheard bringing legal action to unlawfully confiscate our party headquarters and to demolish it. They are systematically trying to eliminate my party, the PNP, from the political life in the Turks and Caicos Islands by arresting and charging most of the senior members including the new Leader who is a lawyer who has never one day served in any Government in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is my belief that the reason for this is to silence the party because its public stance has been to seek independence from Britain. It is also my belief that despite the public stance of Britain about liberty and equality for all, it is their desire and objective to retain the colonies and to pursue a purely commercial ambition from them without regard for the human rights and political will of the populations in those countries. It is well known that the British territories in the Caribbean have natural beauty and sunshine, excellent tourism opportunities and many prospects in terms of financial services, all of which can be turned to ultimate profit for the British. It is further my belief that as the British economy nosedives in the world recession, Britain is taking an opportunistic position in relation to its colonies and former colonies purely for commercial and financial gain, ignoring the harmful effect of their actions on those countries and their people.
9. The Governor has abused his powers and has had land confiscated from individuals who received land lawfully.
10. Abolishing of our right to trial by jury in order to secure convictions.
11. The Governor has changed a number of laws and procedure and has made it retroactive in order to secure a conviction of the persons accused. That is why he can speak with certainty that we will all be convicted. If a crime was truly committed why could the accused not be tried under the system that has tried thousands of prior cases. Why change a whole legal system to convict persons on charges that are politically motivated?
It is my submission that the whole Commission of Inquiry, the criminal charges, the change in the laws, the abolishing of the jury system, the suspension of elected government in the colony was all because my party and I seek to move our country to independence, which Britain does not want, for the reasons mentioned further above.
The best way for the British Government to stop my party’s movement was to drum up charges of corruption. That would allow the Governor to make the changes that they have made to secure a conviction against me and my colleagues. More disturbingly, charges of corruption are emotive and frightening to the people. These charges allow the British government to pursue almost any device in order to secure a conviction, including the suspension of democracy.
In summary we are being politically persecuted because of our political belief, being that we want to live in an independent Turks and Caicos Islands. Moreover, the political persecution is also set in a context of apparent racial superiority, on the part of the British.
The above are a number of human rights violations that have been inflicted upon the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a colony of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom as a permanent member of the security council has an added responsibility to uphold international laws and treaties especially those involving human rights. It is a blatant double standard when they talk about human right abuse and violations in other parts of the world and they themselves are chief offenders in their colonies.
I am therefore asking your good office to intervene as a matter of urgency and to ensure that every country complies with their international obligations no matter how powerful they are.
I end by quoting Martin Luther King Jr: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Turks and Caicos Islands