In the Matter of Haitians in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas – International Human Rights and Solidarity – CCR Docket Fall 1995

CCR joined the Grand Bahamas Human Rights Association, The Center for Human Rights Legal Action, the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, and local counsel in presenting a petition to the Organization of American States (OAS) on behalf of Haitians living in The Bahamas whose human rights were being abused.

The petition, filed in May 1994, at the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, followed a fact-finding tour of the Haitian community in The Bahamas by  CCR attorneys and Yale faculty and students during the Cedras regime.

The investigators found the government of The Bahamas forcibly repatriated Haitian refugees back to the military government from which they were fleeing, thereby endangering there lives. Before repatriation, Haitians were detained in Fox Hill Prison (which Amnesty International has termed one of the worst penal institutions in the world). Even long-time Haitian residents in The Bahamas faced raids, arrests, and repatriation.

Most Haitian residents, no matter how lengthy their  stay in the country, were subject to an inhuman system of expensive work permits which had to be purchased by the workers and which were granted or withheld at the employers’ discretion, thereby creating an exploited pool of Haitian labor.

The petition requested that the Bahamian government halt arbitrary arrests of Haitian residents and treat all refugees in accordance with the customary international law. It also urged that the OAS make an onsite visit to investigate the conditions under which Haitians were living in that country.

Michael Ratner and Beth Stephens, with William Harrell and Wallie Mason, Frederick R. M. Smith, Maurice O. Glington Harold Koh.