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Appeal judges criticise BAD over ‘slavery’ comparison

Bermudians Against the Draft were criticised by Court of Appeal judges for comparing conscription to “slavery” and “forced labour”.

The judges, President Justice Edward Zacca, Sir Austin Ward and Sir Scott Baker, ruled against the campaign group on November 7.

The campaigners Jamel Hardtman, Lamont Marshall and Larry Marshall Jr are trying to get out of mandatory military service in the Regiment. They hope such a ruling would render conscription as a whole to be unlawful in Bermuda.

The judges issued a written judgment on Thursday, explaining the reasons for ruling against the men.

They wrote: “Slavery was abolished in Bermuda in 1834, more than five generations ago. No person in Bermuda is held by such bonds. The reference to slavery in the argument was most inappropriate.

“This court has already held that conscription in Bermuda is not unlawful under the Human Rights Act of 1981. The appellants are members of a disciplined force, to wit, the Bermuda Regiment, whether or not they want to be. As such, they must carry out the lawful orders of the Commanding Officer of the Bermuda Regiment. It is not a question of personal choice. Such service is not forced labour and is not in breach of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968.”

The BAD members further argued that they should not have been arrested for their failure to perform military duties. However, the judges said: “The appellants, by refusing to carry out the lawful orders of the Commanding Officer of the Bermuda Regiment, and not having gained an exemption, were subject to arrest.

“Their arrests were lawful. The conditions under which they were held were not inhumane or degrading and there was no breach of the constitutional provisions.”

The judges said BAD must pay the costs of the appeal. The campaigners have already announced plans to appeal the decision in Bermuda’s highest court, the Privy Council in London.

Responding to the written ruling, BAD campaign spokesman Larry Marshall Sr said: “This is an astonishing statement which graphically illustrates that the Court of Appeal completely misunderstood the point being made by our lawyer Eugene Johnston.

“His point was that as descendants of slaves, these three young black men viewed forced labour as a particularly egregious violation of their right to freedom. Perhaps the Court of Appeal should read the relevant part of our Constitution and then explain why slavery and forced labour are placed in the same section. It is because they are two sides of the same coin. Irrespective of what they think or what the Constitution allows, from a moral and ethical perspective, both are wrong and have no place in any democratic society.”

Mr Marshall added: “I think all logically thinking Bermudians, both black and white, would agree. Furthermore, a good argument could be made, based on the abuses perpetuated at Warwick Camp, that conscription within the local context is indeed slavery or at least very close to that. As a society are we comfortable with that? I think not.”

He vowed that the campaign will continue.

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Published November 21, 2011 at 8:42 am (Updated November 21, 2011 at 8:42 am)

Appeal judges criticise BAD over ‘slavery’ comparison

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