Mitchell Lacks Respect For Our Judicial System

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell

Nassau, NP, Bahamas 21st February 2016- The Free National Movement expresses grave concern and alarm over Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell’s ongoing assault on the judicial system and his blatant contempt for the decisions of the courts.

Putting himself and party before country once again, the Minister has chosen to launch unwarranted attacks on the judiciary and individuals who the courts has seen fit to release. Of equal concern is his verbal attack on individuals who defend persons who believe that their rights have been violated.

In a tremendous display of arrogance, Mitchell publicly declared his disregard for a series of recent rulings, going so far in one instance as to suggest that he would rather have the judiciary itself investigated than accept the decision of a senior justice.

In the case of Bruno Rufa, the court declared that the Canadian expat had been unlawfully detained and deported by Mitchell’s Immigration officers. The Minister’s response was to suggest amendments to the law that would bypass the ruling and allow for arbitrary expulsions to continue – a clear violation of international norms and a slap in the face of the presiding judge.

In the case of two Cuban men freed last week after spending three years incarcerated without legal justification, the Minister decided to publicly brand them a national security risk after the courts had declared them free and innocent in the eyes of the law.

If, as he says, Mitchell has evidence to back his allegation, why did he not bring it before the courts at any point over the last three years? If they are guilty of an offence, why were they not officially charged as our laws and constitution demand?

In perhaps the most shocking and dangerous move of all, Mitchell went so far as to indicate his intention to alert “border forces” relative to the two Cuban men who were released. Mitchell is now the chief spokesperson on National Security matters rather than Dr Bernard Nottage. Mr. Mitchell is prepared to investigate the release of Mr. Pupo and Mr. Seara even though the Attorney General did not dispute their release. Is he usurping the AG and Minister of National Security? Are they not communication with each other in or out of Cabinet?

The FNM supports firm and humane protection of our borders and our country. This we believe can and ought to be done according to our laws however.

Mitchell’s increasingly reckless and dictatorial behavior is affecting the country’s good name on the international stage. His dangerous pronouncements and open disrespect for the judiciary is damaging our reputation as a country that respects human rights and the rule of law. His intolerant remarks threatens to frighten off potential investors and second homeowners who are vital to the economic health of this country. The public would recall his statements suggesting that Sarkis Izmirlian should consider making the appropriate steps to live elsewhere. This discussion of citizenship is a common theme for this Minister when in dispute with others.

Even more worrying is the effect at home, where the independence of our hallowed courts is being threatened by Mitchell’s increasingly high-handed conduct.

The Judiciary is enshrined in the Constitution of The Bahamas as a vital third pillar of our government. It is fully independent and in no way subject to control by the executive. His remarks cast a cloud over this crucial institution and bring it’s good name into disrepute.

Intentionally or unintentionally Mitchell comments much like his Ministerial colleague, who blamed the high rate of crime on the judiciary, continues to erode public confidence in the judiciary. The Minister should have spent his time talking about how the Cuban nationals came to be detained at the Department of Corrections and what efforts if any the Government was making to address their deportation or transfer out of the Bahamas.

The FNM calls on Minister Mitchell to immediately cease his attempts to bully and intimidate the courts and defenders of humans rights. We urge the Prime Minister of The Bahamas to step in and protect the country’s reputation and the legal system upon which our democracy is based.