NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas yesterday joined the consensus of members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), condemning all forms of racism and reaffirming its support for equality for all, amidst global uproar over racially inspired human rights violations, historic systemic racism and police brutality.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield advised that H.E. Keva Bain, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of The Bahamas to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva presented the country’s statement on the matter yesterday.
The UNHRC held an urgent debate on the adoption of the draft resolution entitled “The promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers”.
The debate began on Wednesday and was concluded on Thursday morning, however, the vote on a draft resolution was postponed.
While the UNHC did not name The Bahamas among the countries that participated in the debate, Eyewitness News understands the country’s statement on the matter has been officially recorded by the council.
The Bahamas began serving its three-year term on the HCR on January 1, 2019.
In the country statement, Bain acknowledged ongoing violations of the rights of People of African Descent around the world.
She said those violations illustrate there is more distance to travel in order to achieve full equality and non-discrimination for all.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the vulnerability and unequal outcomes that exist for People of African Descent and other minority groups, due to systemic racism”, Bain continued.
“As a nation of majority People of African Descent, The Bahamas condemns all forms of racism and believes that equality is a human right.
“…The legacy of historical injustices, committed against People of African Descent, permeates our contemporary realities, including through the higher rates of chronic disease, disproportionate burdens of climate change, inequalities in the international economic and trading system as well as the violence and discrimination to which people of African Descent continue to succumb.
“Reckoning with the past will be the only way to meet the needs of the present.”
During the debate, a host of speakers urged the council to retain the focus of the proposed commission of inquiry, specifically on the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody in late March; police brutality and institutional racism within the United States.
Floyd’s death sparked protests and demonstrations in major cities across the globe, with some turning violent, and memorial figures of historical colonial figures torn down nor vandalized. Scores of Bahamians living in the United States have participated in protests from Manhattan to Miami.
While Bain did not reference any specific incident, she noted that recent events and the call from the global civil society underscore that many feel their voices are unheard.
“We, therefore, reaffirm our commitments to eradicating racism, protecting the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all, including by ensuring adequate civil society space, protecting the right to peaceful assembly and association and addressing violence and discrimination on the basis of race, wherever it occurs.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs added in a statement, The Bahamas’ position on racism—wherever it finds itself in the world— has been made demonstrably clear.
“The Bahamas looks forward to engaging with other member states on the question of racism and human rights, which is of grave concern and needs to be eradicated wherever it raises its intolerable head,” it said.
The country was elected by the United Nations General Assembly on October 12, 2018, to serve on the Human Rights Council (HCR) – the first time a CARICOM country has attained a seat.