Bahamas Human Rights

Areas of concern: Police brutality, asylum-seekers and migrants rights, death penalty

At least two people were sentenced to death; no executions were carried out. There were reports of excessive use of force by members of the security forces and of ill-treatment and discrimination against migrants.

Police and security forces

There were continuing reports of excessive use of force by members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

  • On 9 July, police pursuing two suspected robbers shot and killed 18-year-old Brenton Smith as he was walking with a friend in the capital, Nassau. Initial police reports alleging that Brenton Smith had been involved in the robbery were subsequently withdrawn. A coroner's inquiry began in November, but was adjourned until mid-January 2010.

Asylum-seekers' and migrants' rights

There were reports of ill-treatment at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre which holds migrants,including children with their families. In February, a national newspaper published several allegations of recent ill-treatment of detainees. One man, for example, alleged that he was beaten so severely that he lost several fingernails and toenails. The findings of a Department of Immigration commission set up to investigate the allegations had not been made public by the end of the year.

There were reports of ill-treatment by immigration officials and members of the security forces during the deportation of migrants, the vast majority of whom were Haitians. Violence against women

In March, at the UN Human Rights Council, the government rejected recommendations to criminalize rape within marriage. However, in July, a bill was introduced to Parliament to amend provisions of the 1991 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act which exclude rape within marriage from the definition of rape. Discussions were continuing at the end of the year.

Death penalty

At least two people were sentenced to death.

In August the authorities announced that four death row prisoners had had their death sentences confirmed. Their sentences had been reviewed following a 2006 ruling by the UK-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that the mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional in the Bahamas. In October, the authorities began proceedings to move to execute one of the four men, but they were halted after his lawyers lodged an appeal before the Privy Council. Fourteen other men were awaiting resentencing at the end of the year.

At the adoption of the UN Universal Periodic Review outcome in March, the Bahamas rejected a wide range of recommendations regarding the death penalty.