HRC questions omissions

| 14/10/2008

(CNS): The absence of aspirational rights such as the right to education, housing or healthcare as well as a more exhaustive list of the proposed grounds of non-discrimination in the government’s recently circulated draft Bill of Rights has raised concerns from the local Human Rights Committee. The body also noted that its members had not been sent a copy of the draft bill nor had it been asked to comment on it before it was placed in the public domain.

“The HRC notes the public release on 6 October 2008 of a CIG Working Draft Bill of Rights which purports to have broad consensus of the NGOs including the HRC, although the HRC was not sent a copy of same or invited to provide any comment of this CIG draft document,” the committee said in a statement released to the press to summarizing its position in wake of the first round of constitutional talks.

The HRC also stated that it understood, following the first round of FCO talks, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would provide a working draft of both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in due course.

“While the HRC are in broad agreement with the Government working draft, the HRC remains concerned that a number of critical issues, such as aspirational rights and an exhaustive list of the proposed grounds of non-discrimination, are absent from the Government draft document,” it said. “Apparently due to the fact that those and other important issues were not fully discussed at the first round of talks and still do not have broad consensus.”

The HRC also said its hopes that the Government’s decision to release its Working Draft does not negatively impact the further discussions withthe FCO, which is reportedly preparing another draft Bill of Rights document for consideration by the Cayman Island’s delegation, or cause any confusion to the people. The committee also said that since the first round of talks with the FCO on constitutional reform, there have been a number of reported inaccuracies in the press regarding its position on the horizontal application of rights and on drafting of the bill of rights.

It said it believes the horizontal application of rights “should be considered at a later stage for Cayman, in order to develop a full human rights culture.”  The HRC does not, it said, contrary to recent press statements, presently advocate horizontal application of rights for the Cayman Islands.

“Before the Cayman Islands can be ready for horizontal application of rights, there are a number of practical implications, which would first need to be addressed.” However the HRC pointed out that the Cayman Islands will need to consider, at a future date, whether it is ready to take the further step from vertical application of rights only, to the inclusion of horizontal application of rights

“It is also important to bear in mind that many citizens of the Cayman Islands could benefit greatly from the development of a human rights culture in a private sphere, for example, in relation to the workplace, schools and other organisations. However, as previously noted, there is significant practical implication which would first need to be addressed before such further step is taken for the Cayman Islands.”

The HRC also confirmed its desire to see the Bill of Rights drafted in plain English and gender-friendly rather than “gender-neutral” language, which properly acknowledges the entire population, both male and female. By “gender-friendly” language, the HRC means the Constitution uses language which recognises the equal place of both the men and women in our society. Thus, the Constitution ought to refer to “man or woman”, “he or she” or “his or her” wherever possible.

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  1. Chris Randall says:

    Last paragraph: The HRC wants the Bill of Rights to be drafter in plain English!

    So what exactly do they mean by ‘horizontal application’ and ‘vertical application’?  

    Plain English? – they don’t know what it is!

  2. Rose says:

    As a call for ‘plain English’ how about using impersonnal pronouns "they" & "their" rather than the labourous "his or hers", etc., in everything from now on?

    The problem with people like the HRC is that for every good suggestion they make they also make a stupid one. Its like going from the need to balance the rights of both parents in child custody cases to arguments about modern day slavery. The wheat gets lost with the chaff.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The comparison with slavery is absurd. Please leave the racial rhetoric out of it and behave like a rational person. The bottom line is someone has to pay for this which means direct taxation.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Come on people, just go back 300 years to when our forefathers had the insight to release all slaves.  Now, here we are trying to only give HUMAN RIGHTS to Caymanians and let the ex-pats who work for us left to be treated like slaves?!?  You need to go no further than a woman’s right to child custody here in Cayman if she is an ex pat and the children born Caymanian.  There will be a whole group of women at the march this Saturday to support ex-pat parent’s rights too.  The HRC is useless unless it protects all souls on these islands….locals and ex pats alike.  two sets of rule is likened to slavery again.


  5. Anonymous says:

    With the greatest respect to the HRC, I am not sure that they fully appreciate the serious implications of these aspirational rights. Does a right to healthcare and education mean that the CIG will be obliged to provide free education for the resident children of work permit holders, for example? Does it mean CIG would be responsible to meet costs if work permit holders do not possess adequate health insurance. CIG simply cannot afford this given its existing revenue base. Does Cayman want to move in a more socialist direction with the direct taxation that it implies? I am afraid that the HRC is caught up in the euphoria of a rights culture and is not properly weighing how they would operate in Cayman. Soon there will be so many rights that there won’t be any wrongs.