Today’s Editorial June 23: Human rights gets a leg up

Every cloud has a silver lining.

That old adage can be applied to the recent hunger strike by Luis Luarca, the Cuban refugee doctor, who was protesting what he called a lack of respect for human rights in the Cayman Islands and Cuba.

He filed an official complaint, which kicked in Cayman’s fledgling Human Rights Committee.

Because Mr. Luarca was on a hunger strike, members of the Committee knew they had to act swiftly.

And from that test run, much has been learned.

For one thing, Mr. Luarca contended that because the form he filled out to apply for a job at the Health Services Authority asked him his religion, his rights had been violated under the international human rights convention that prohibits religious discrimination.

The Committee didn’t find any evidence of the question violating Mr. Luarca’s rights, but they realized that such a question could.

The HSA has since removed the question from its applications and the Committee plans to ask the Chief Secretary to see if the question serves any legitimate purpose on any government or statutory authority employment applications.

The haste by which the Committee had to make a decision led members to realize a subcommittee needed to be available to deal with cases like Mr. Luarca’s instead of waiting on the full Committee.

Mr. Luarca’s actions also shed light on the need to have human rights conventions addressed in all legislation; the Committee has already been asked for its comments in relation to two recently drafted bills.

The Committee has also made plans to implement a website to help alert people of the work of the Committee and to advance the awareness of human rights in the Cayman Islands.

And the Committee is also in the process of producing a definitive document that will guide petitioners through the complaint process and advise them of what they can expect.

Mr. Luarca’s hunger strike under the tree at Glass House made many people angry and inspired heated debate throughout Grand Cayman.

But out of his actions – whether you approved or not – came some realizations that can go a long way to helping human rights in the Cayman Islands.

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