October 24, 2016
Attorney for Save The Bays (STB) Fred Smith, in an open letter to Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade released yesterday, claimed that STB members' complaints about "a campaign of harassment, intimidation, hate speech, death threats, arson, violence and a conspiracy to seriously harm or kill" them went unaddressed for well over a year.
Smith expressed "bafflement" at the police force's "sudden desire to ask us any questions at all, given that STB has made several official reports to the police going back to February 2015 and provided voluminous evidence".
In the House of Assembly on March 13, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that he asked police to investigate matters connected to an alleged murder plot targeting several members of Save The Bays and related allegations.
Smith and other STB members filed an explosive suit in the Supreme Court a week earlier, alleging that wealthy Lyford Cay resident Peter Nygard and attorney Keod Smith had plotted to have them killed.
Both Nygard and Keod Smith strongly denied that allegation.
More than seven months after the prime minister told Parliament police were investigating the matter, there has been no update to the public on the status or outcome of that probe.
While the matter has gone under the national radar, STB has sought protection from international groups concerned with the protection of human rights.
In his letter to the commissioner, Smith thanked him for the "speed and urgency with which the Royal Bahamas Police Force responded to news that Save The Bays (STB) has reported certain serious threats to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) at the OAS in Washington, DC."
He wrote: "Within days of the IACHR contacting the government regarding our case, senior officers made efforts to interview all STB members who had reported fearing for their lives and safety as a result of the environmental advocacy work we do across The Bahamas.
"Unfortunately, the approach taken by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) in seeking to address this matter has - no doubt inadvertently - caused considerable concern among our board and membership.
"I would hereby like to respectfully request that officers cease and desist from seeking out individual members at their homes or places of work in an effort to ask them 'some questions'."
Smith added: "As I am sure you can appreciate, given this alarming context, some of our already terrified members therefore experienced an increased level of anxiety and felt extremely intimidated when approached, on an individual basis, by police officers.
"In certain instances, it was as if they were to be arrested, rather than treated as the victims, and it was certainly embarrassing and disconcerting that these visits were made in public and at some places of work."
Smith said the decision by STB members to petition the IACHR and other international organizations was specifically motivated by "the failure of police, the government, civic leaders and political leaders of all parties to have regard to our earlier claims, as members felt STB would continue to be ignored until it was too late".
"Until the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently issued [a] press release decrying us and threatening to investigate us, we had become invisible and the activities against us were ignored," he said in the letter to the commissioner.
In a statement on October 2, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration said it was facilitating the government's reply to the Save The Bays petition to the IACHR.
The ministry notes that the five STB members claimed that their lives are in danger because of their political advocacy, and that some of them have had to flee The Bahamas.
The petitioners seek to cause the IACHR to request that The Bahamas adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to their lives, the ministry noted.
"It is a truism that highly visible and voluble civic engagement is a hallmark in every era of open, democratic society," the ministry said.
"The instant petition relies upon claims that are repugnant to the legal and cultural constitution of the way of life in The Bahamas.
"As the government of The Bahamas takes seriously any complaint of violation of human rights, an investigation of the allegations has therefore been launched by the Royal Bahamas Police Force, and is being carried out with dispatch.
"Civic engagement by the general public, and by the petitioners in their political advocacy, is in the governance and institutional life of The Bahamas a natural, unfettered element in the identity of The Bahamas as a modern, open democracy.
"The findings in this matter are to be reported in the coming days in the government's full reply to the IACHR. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration will continue to inform the public of the developments in, and resolution of, this matter."
The ministry has not provided an update since its October 2 statement.
Smith said in his letter to the commissioner that STB is also seeking formal protection from the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Candia Dames, Guardian Managing Editor
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