Part3 of Constitution feature looks at rules & rights

| 03/11/2009

(CNS): In part three of government’s series explaining the content of the Cayman Islands new constitution which comes into effect this Friday on the Appointed Day. In this feature Government information Services looks at the Bill of rights which despite being the most fundamental to the people it will in fact not be implemented for another three years.

(GIS): While the Constitution is the ultimate law of the land, protective guidelines for the extended Cayman Islands ‘family’ are to be found in its Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities. This initial section of the new Constitution is perhaps the most fundamental, for it will impact our quality of life. For the first time, a local Bill of Rights will guarantee basic freedoms and human rights for all. But in order to make these provisions a reality, government must ensure that human rights obligations at least meet minimum international standards. However, in some, but not all cases, the requirement to meet them must also be balanced against the collective rights of others, as well as the country’s economic capability at any given time. Cayman’s Bill of Rights will generally come into effect on 6 November 2012 – three years after the introduction of the revised Constitution.

This extended timeframe will allow government to complete necessary preparations, such as ensuring that all local laws comply with the provisions of the Constitution. Government will also ready itself for the rights-based system relative to the services it provides to the public, including to prison inmates. 

However, provisions stipulating the segregation of prisoners will not be operational until 2013, thereby giving government reasonable time to put in place the necessary infrastructure for both juvenile and adult inmates.  

Under the Bill, a resident’s rights and freedoms are clearly outlined, but it also stipulates each individual’s responsibilities to others. Legal requirements will likewise ensure that government honours its obligation to provide national safety and security.

But while it protects people against unlawful abuse by government, the Bill does not address general grievances based on disagreements between individuals.

In short, the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities stipulates that all persons are free to choose the direction of their lives; pursue economic, social and cultural interests and enjoy recreation and the fruits of their labour in peace and satisfaction. However, their activities must not be harmful to others, and must fall within the law. The Bill also acknowledges the institution of marriage and protects a couple’s right to have a family.

 It likewise ensures children special rights, including appropriate health care, nutrition and protection from exploitation. The document further allows children the right to education, either in public or private schools, and generally shields them from discrimination.

Additionally, regardless of a person’s age, sex, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability, everyone will enjoy equal rights as expressed in the Constitution.

Human (and worldwide) rights further serve to uphold each person’s life and dignity. They include basics such as privacy, expression, assembly, and the right to a fair trial.

That said, whilst some rights, such as protection against slavery or inhuman or degrading treatment are also considered to be absolute, this is not the case for all.

Some rights are limited because of their very nature. Such rights are sometimes curtailed because unrestricted exercise of these, such as the right to freedom of expression, may infringe on the rights of others. 

In these instances, the state may reasonably regulate said rights or at times, as in extreme circumstances, even temporarily suspend them, for example during national emergencies. These limited or qualified rights are the most delicate of all, and that is why any reduction of them must be reasonably justified before the law.

In addition, the courts system will remain an integral aspect of the human rights equation. When the Bill of Rights comes into force, individuals will be properly able to bring human rights claims for the courts to hear and decide. And neither is Constitutional protection limited to people, for it also extends to the environment. Although some conservation laws were previously passed, Cayman’s unique natural environment will now benefit from additional safeguards.

 In future, government must legally protect critical aspects of heritage and wildlife, both on land and at sea. It must also prevent pollution and damage, while ensuring ecologically-sustainable development.

Finally, over the next few months the new Human Rights Commission will be established and greater awareness of the rights regime in the Cayman Islands will thereby be afforded to people locally.

But even beyond that point, Caymanian residents should all strive to know the rules that govern our rights. Only then will we be properly positioned to respond to and appreciate protections outlined in the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities and enshrined in the first section of the new Constitution

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Local News

About the Author ()

Comments are closed.