Gordon Barlow resigns HRC

Controversy resulted from article

Human Right Committee member Gordon Barlow resigned from the committee Wednesday amid a controversy resulting from comments attributed to him in Cayman Net News.

The resignation followed a contentious meeting of the HRC on Tuesday evening.

‘Irreconcilable differences pretty much covers the situation, culminating in a noisy bun-fight at Tuesday’s meeting,’ Mr. Barlow stated in his letter of resignation as to the reason for his decision.

‘My continued participation in the Chamber’s (HRC) work can only distract it from what it sees as the best way forward,’ Mr. Barlow said in the covering letter with the resignation notice.

The controversy started on 1 September when Cabinet Minister Alden McLaughlin, who is also the chairman of the HRC, refuted comments made in two Cayman Net News editorials that suggested residents of the Cayman Islands did not have the right of individual petition to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr. McLaughlin said Cayman Net News editorial stance was wrong.

‘In fact, it is difficult for it to be more wrong,’ he said at the time.

Mr. McLaughlin pointed out that in late January of this year he announced at a press briefing, in which a representative of Cayman Net News was present, that the Cayman Islands had requested the United Kingdom extend right to individual petition extended to the Cayman Islands on a permanent basis.

The right was officially extended to the Cayman Islands on 23 February 2006. It had been temporarily extended to the Cayman Islands once before for a period of five years that expired in 1986 and not renewed.

At the 1 September press briefing, Mr. McLaughlin also brought attention to an article that appeared in the Caymanian Compass on 7 March 2006 under the headline ‘Human rights steps taken’. That article also spoke of the right to individual petition being extended to the Cayman Islands on a permanent basis and listed the four treaties under which a person could make such an application.

Mr. McLaughlin stressed that the issue was an important on that needed to be reported accurately.

‘If you don’t trust the government, simply go to the [Council of Europe] website and it’s there for all to see,’ he said. ‘When such inaccuracy occurs, there is confusion and consternation.’

Cayman Net News responded with an editorial on 6 September that admitted getting the facts wrong about right of individual petition not being extended to the Cayman Islands, but it chastised the Government for making ‘not one official public announcement or other utterance’ about the right of individual petition being extended to the Cayman Islands.

The following date, in an article written by Nicky Watson under the front page headline ‘HRC left in the dark’, Cayman Net News stated the Human Right Committee had not been informed of the right being extended to the Cayman Islands.

The article quoted Mr. Barlow as saying that the HRC members had not been officially told or shown any evidence that the individual right of petition has been reinstated to the Cayman Islands.

The story also stated that Mr. Barlow, after reading one of the Cayman Net News editorials that Mr. McLaughlin refuted, emailed his fellow HRC members to find out whether the individual right to petition had been extended to the Cayman Islands but that he did not get any replies.

In a letter outlining his position to the HRC prior to their meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Barlow said Cayman Net News was in error.

Cayman Net News was wrong in saying the right to individual petition didn’t exist in Cayman…’ he wrote. ‘They misquoted me, of course: I remember quite well Alden’s telling us that Britain had extended the right. But I have let the mistake ride; these things happen, and are rarely worth the effort of correcting.’

Mr. Barlow noted in the covering email, which accompanied his position statement that the HRC seemed to be ‘caught in the middle of the political squabble between its editorial writers and reporters and Alden in his capacity as lead spokesman for Cabinet’.

In his email to HRC members on Wednesday evening, Mr. Barlow presented a draft copy of a Letter to the Editor of Cayman Net News he was requested during Tuesday night’s meeting to prepare in response to the newspaper’s article.

Mr. Barlow acknowledges publicly in that proposed letter that the HRC was indeed informed about the extension to Cayman of the European Convention on Human Rights or the individual right of petition to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr. Barlow also offered in the proposed letter reasons the Cayman Net News article had the facts wrong.

‘In the course of a long telephone conversation, I answered many questions and it is possible that my interviewer misread her notes when compiling her report,’ he stated. ‘Alternatively, it is also possible that I could have unconsciously misled her by not making myself clear.

‘The Committee has asked me to correct the mistake, and this I gladly do.’

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