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HRC says independent Human Rights Tribunal an ‘essential step’

Human Rights Commission logo (Image from Bermuda Government website)

The Human Rights Commission gave increased attention to the potential for discriminatory practices in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to its annual report.

The commission’s Annual Report 2021, which provides a streamlined account of its activities and observations, was tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday.

Lisa Reed, executive officer, said in her executive statement: “The complexities of the Covid-19 crisis affirm the urgency of adopting a human rights-based approach to inform governance and associated policy and programming.

“Discrimination may occur where policies and practices do not account for individual circumstances, differences and characteristics, which may result in persons being unfairly disadvantaged.

“The example of the pandemic reminds us that while our humanity is shared, our experiences and identities are distinct.

“There was heightened focus and consideration on the policies and practices by both employers and the Government of Bermuda, and stakeholders were encouraged to examine why certain procedures are in place in addition to assessing the distinct impacts that they have on individuals.”

HRC complaints

The commission received 174 complaints in 2021, primarily identifying discriminatory treatment.

Of the identified grounds, about 59 per cent related to employment.

Grounds based on race, place of origin, colour, ethnic or national origins accounted for 35 per cent. This was followed by the protected ground of disability at 20 per cent and sex which accounted for 12 per cent.

Sexual harassment accounted for 9 per cent of cases, followed by housing [8 per cent] and harassment within the workplace [8 per cent].

The commission said that the Human Rights Amendment Act 2021 marked “an essential step” in ensuring that the island has an independent Human Rights Tribunal that can efficiently and expertly adjudicate cases.

It said: “An independent tribunal represents the establishment of another crucial pillar in Bermuda’s human rights framework.

“The amendments create a clear separation between the tribunal and the commission, with the Human Rights Tribunal panel members independently appointed by the Selection and Appointment Committee, established under Section 13A of the Human Rights Act 1981.”

Speaking of the year ahead, it added: “The commission is committed to fortifying Bermuda’s national human rights legislation and expanding educational outreach to broadly promote the protections afforded under the Act and Bermuda’s human rights framework.

“As a non-ministry office, the commission’s autonomy and strengthened capacity are essential to effectively fulfilling its mandate and safeguarding the rights of all.”

The Office of the Commission invites questions and feedback related to the Annual Report or its work in general either by phone on 295-5859 or via e-mail at humanrights@gov.bm.

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Published October 11, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated October 10, 2022 at 7:20 pm)

HRC says independent Human Rights Tribunal an ‘essential step’

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