Human Rights Committee reappointed

The Cayman Islands Human Rights Committee, dormant since 1 July, was recently reappointed with the majority of its former members rejoining the body, the Caymanian Compass has learned.

The status of the committee, which acts as a clearing house for human and civil rights complaints in the Cayman Islands, has been uncertain since the appointments of all its sitting members expired on 30 June.

Members indicated they were recently approached by Cabinet Secretary Orrett Connor and asked if they would be prepared to continue. Most agreed to do so.

Under the newly-approved Cayman Islands Constitution, the committee will be replaced by a full-time Human Rights Commission. That five-person commission will have its members appointed by the governor, who will consult with the premier on the appointments.

The new Constitution is scheduled to come into effect on 6 November.

Whether the current Human Rights Committee will operate beyond that date is unclear. It is possible that the appointments to the five-person commission would not have been finalised by that stage and that there will be some interim period in which the committee serves as a fill-in.

Former committee chairperson Sara Collins had indicated members’ willingness to assist government with the transition in any way they could.

‘I think it is fair to say that the current members will do what we can do to assist if and when we are asked,’ Ms Collins said in late June.

According to committee members, the body is not fully functional. A human rights analyst working on behalf of the board departed her position leaving the committee without support staff.

Committee members indicated that they have been restricted to dealing with emergency situations and giving views on crucial issues when the need arises. The committee recently released a lengthy statement on its views surrounding a proposal to change Cayman’s legal aid system.

According to the new Constitution, the commission’s main focus will be to ‘promote understanding and observance of human rights in the Cayman Islands.’

The commission is expected to act independently in investigating complaints about breaches of human rights established in Cayman’s Bill of Rights. It can also investigate and report on human rights issues based on commission members’ own initiative.

The legal implementation of the Bill of Rights will not occur until 6 November, 2012. Certain sections that deal with the treatment of prisoners will not come into effect until 6 November, 2013.