The government has added the Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee to the list of non-governmental organisations that will have representatives at the constitutional modernisation discussions with the United Kingdom beginning on 29 September.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts announced the HRC’s representation at the meetings at last week’s Cabinet press briefing.
‘When we understand [the HRC’s] role here in the Cayman Islands, it certainly was going to be odd if they were not in a position to be part of the NGOs,’ he said.
Other NGO’s sending representatives to the talks are the Cayman Islands Ministers Association, the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce and the Cayman Islands Mission of Seventh-Day Adventists, Mr. Tibbetts said.
The HRC said this week it had received confirmation of its inclusion in the talks from the Government and that Melanie McLaughlin, chairperson of the HRC Constitutional Working Group, would represent the organisation in the meetings.
‘As the national organisation with responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights, the HRC believes that its input is valuable and important to ensure the Cayman Islands gets the most appropriate protection for human rights in its new constitutional arrangement,’ it stated in response to questions asked of it by the Caymanian Compass.
The HRC issued a report on 7 April outlining its position on the government’s constitutional modernisation proposals, including the basic premise that the inclusion of fundamental human rights in the Constitution was essential.
In their statement this week, the HRC spoke about some its positions on the subject, including comment on the definition of marriage.
‘Upholding the basic principles of equality, the Constitution should not seek to discriminate against any person or group,’ the Committee stated. ‘However, the HRC acknowledges that it may be preferable to leave the definition of marriage to domestic law, while accepting that it would be a matter for individual religion as to which marriage ceremony it chooses to sanction and perform.
‘Any civil rights to be granted to any form of legal union to be recognised under Cayman law will remain a matter for the legislature, but should not be discriminatory.’
The HRC also believes a bill of rights should be enshrined in the constitution, and that it should include relevant economic, social, cultural and people’s rights to ensure it reflects the values and the future aspirations of the people of the Cayman Islands.
‘The Bill of Rights will set out the fundamental human rights of each citizen and the Government, but does not apply horizontally between private individuals,’ the HRC stated. ‘However, horizontal application of rights is an important issue, which should be addressed by Cayman, at minimum, to clarify the extent to which private schools, companies or individuals are also to be bound by human rights principles.’
The HRC said the bill of rights must not be introduced in isolation
‘In order to ensure that a bill of rights is effective and utilised fully, people will require education, guidance and support,’ it stated. ‘The establishment of a Human Rights Commission for the Cayman Islands will be beneficial to advance public education on human rights and could be designed to provide a much more effective mechanism to assist individuals in accessing legal remedies and defending their rights.’
The HRC also reiterated its position on religion.
‘The right of religious freedom and of conscience is an important fundamental human right,’ it stated. ‘The current proposals for constitutional reform do not remove the right to pray in public or in schools. However, no person should be forced to participate in the religious activities of any faith of which he or she is not a member.’
The HRC also believes that there must be an effective remedy where human rights are allegedly infringed.
‘Direct enforcement by the local courts is an option for the Cayman Islands, given its constitutional available structure.’