Bahamas loses bid to sit on UN Human Rights Council
[CMC] – The Bahamas has been unsuccessful in its attempt to become the first English-speaking Caribbean nation to sit on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
During the vote on Wednesday, 113 out of 192 countries voted for The Bahamas, but it was not sufficient to secure the seat.
“On behalf of the Government of The Bahamas, I thanked the Ambassador and staff of the United Nation’s Mission for The Bahamas in New York for their valiant efforts in seeking to get the country elected to the UN Human Rights Council. We were not successful but the team put in a valiant effort for which they are to be commended, especially having joined the campaign some six weeks ago,” Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Fred Mitchell.
“The campaign was run almost exclusively by the young people of the Foreign Ministry. Their work was extraordinary, backed up the direction of the mature diplomats in the service. Our country has every reason to be proud of them. This will all stand them and the country in good stead for the future. We thank the 113 out of 192 countries that voted for The Bahamas. ”
Seats were secured by Panama, Ecuador and Venezuela.
In a statement issued subsequently, the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) said the country’s failure should serve as a reminder to government that the world is watching as the Bahamas’ human rights standards continue to deteriorate.
The GBHRA said the inability of the Bahamas to get sufficient votes was unfortunate, but reiterated its stance that the government should turn its attention to rights abuses at home before it seeks to police the rest of the world.
“The failed bid is lamentable, in that it reflects poorly on The Bahamas on the international scene. At the same time, we believe the effort to join the council in the first place was nothing but a cynical ploy on the part of government desperate to deflect attention from its record on human rights at home, which sadly leaves much to be desired,” said GBHRA president, Fred Smith Q.C.
The GBHRA said instances of bad treatment of migrants – including detention and deportation without due process, steps taken to deny children of migrants access to education, police brutality, and cases such as the recent one of Jamaican Matthew Sewell, detained for nine years in hellish prison conditions without having been convicted of a crime – are just a few examples of why The Bahamas should be considered unfit for such a post at this time.
“This is not to mention the government’s continued flagrant failure to enact a Freedom of Information Act which would open it up to public scrutiny like the majority of the world’s governments and ensure that the Bahamian public’s human right – to public information – is upheld and respected,” said Smith.
With its campaign to win the seat over, the GBHRA said it hopes the government will turn much needed attention to addressing these critical issues.
“We continue to hope for a day when The Bahamas will rightly be able to take a seat at this institution and make pronouncements on the human rights failings of others with integrity,” Smith said.
But in a response, Mitchell criticized the GBHRA for showing its “anti patriotic streak”.
“Instead of congratulations to our hard working diplomats abroad, the association can only spew bile, misinformation and the usual negative nastiness and exaggeration that have come to define them,” he said.
“The Bahamas received the support of 113 countries but sadly could not get the support of the Bahamian citizen from the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association who claims to be a human rights advocate. How very sad and reprehensible.”
Haiti officials look into new allegations against US man
[AP] – Haitian investigators are looking into new allegations of child sex abuse against a US man who founded an orphanage for boys in Haiti’s capital decades ago.
Police with an arrest warrant searched unsuccessfully Friday for Michael Geilenfeld at a modest private residence in a mountainside community above Port-au-Prince and the nearby Wings of Hope home for about 30 physically and mentally disabled children and young adults. On its website, the facility says it is a “critical part” of Geilenfeld’s charitable organisation.
The American is already the subject of another criminal case in Haiti that accused him of sexually abusing boys in his care. He spent 237 days in detention before being released in April by a Haitian judge who dismissed the charges in a brief trial that was not attended by the accusers, now adults. But the justice minister granted a re-examination of the case and it is now in court again on appeal.
Geilenfeld had also filed a separate civil case in the US in which a jury in late July ordered a Maine activist to pay $14.5 million in damages to him and North Carolina-based Hearts with Haiti after finding he defamed them by leading an email blitz accusing the American man of sexually abusing Haitian children. The activist, Paul Kendrick, has requested a new trial.
In the trial of his US civil case in Maine, Geilenfeld testified that he believed the accusations of sexual abuse lingered against him in impoverished Haiti because he was a gay man in what he described as a homophobic country.
Geilenfeld, an Iowa native and former Catholic brother, founded the St Joseph Home for Boys in Haiti’s capital in the 1980s. At the defamation court case in Maine, which saw seven Haitian men testify they were molested as youngsters by the US man, Geilenfeld said he was inspired by Mother Teresa’s missionary work to do good works in Haiti. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
During the Friday search at the Wings of Hope facility in Fermathe, a government official who accompanied police showed reporters an arrest warrant for Geilenfeld signed Thursday by General Prosecutor Jean Abner Emile. Geilenfeld returned to Haiti after the US jury in the civil case returned its verdict in late July.
Haitian authorities questioned staff members about Geilenfeld’s whereabouts. Communications director Renee Dietrich told them she had spoken to him several days ago but didn’t know where he was. She also showed them unanswered calls she made to him on her cellphone.
Dietrich declined to speak to Associated Press journalists who witnessed the Friday police searches, referring all queries to Geilenfeld’s US lawyer, Peter DeTroy. He did not respond to an email seeking comment and has previously said he has no involvement with legal matters in Haiti.
Alain Lemithe, Geilenfeld’s Haitian lawyer, said he was confident his client would prevail in Haiti’s appeals court in the coming weeks and said the timing of new allegations appeared to be “very suspicious.”
Haitian investigators were accompanied Friday by Valerie Dirksen, a real estate agent from the Atlanta metropolitan area who asserts Geilenfeld is a serial abuser of children. She sponsors two young Haitian men who grew up in Geilenfeld’s care and she insists there are many alleged victims who passed through the orphanage.
According to Dirksen, the new arrest warrant for Geilenfeld was issued after a magistrate judge visited the St Joseph Home for Boys and found three youngsters residing there with him, a violation of an earlier mandate by Haiti’s child welfare authority.
“I will stay here in Haiti until he is arrested,” she said outside the Wings of Hope home.
Missing ship: El Faro ‘found by search team’
The 790ft (241m) El Faro disappeared while sailing from Florida to Puerto Rico with 33 crew on board.
A US Navy ship using sonar equipment has now located a vessel at a depth of 15,000ft.
The El Faro sent out a distress signal on 1 October, saying it had lost power and was taking on water.
Debris was spotted in the ocean in the days after it disappeared, and one body was recovered.
In a statement, the US National Transportation Safety Board said a remotely operated vehicle would be deployed “to survey and confirm the identity of the wreckage”.
It added that the wreckage was “consistent with a 790ft cargo ship, which from sonar images appears to be in an upright position and in one piece”.
The statement went on to say that if the wreckage was confirmed to be the missing cargo ship, attempts would be made to locate and recover the voyage data recorder.