CURB fears over harassment
Anti-racism advocacy group Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda has thrown its support behind a call to withdraw a section of a proposed amendment which would expand the definition of harassment in the Human Rights Act.
CURB says that the section would legalise police harassment of young black men.
The clause “clearly appears to exempt the Police Service from being held responsible for harassing people by discriminatory behaviour or racial profiling,” CURB said in a statement.
“We agree with the Centre for Justice that the Human Rights Act amendment Clause 6C Subsection (3) appears to be unconstitutional as it allows discriminatory behaviour and profiling by the Bermuda Police without recourse by those harassed.”
The statement continued: “Last month when CURB had the opportunity to meet the UK. Minister for Overseas Territories Mark Simmonds, he indicated that excessive stop and searches of individuals in a short period of time constitutes harassment by police officers.
“We have requested from him the relevant supporting documentation. Additionally, individuals have indicated to CURB members that they have been stopped and searched in excess of ten times.
“Those who have gone through the proper complaints authority have described the process as ‘weak.’
“If these same individuals were to take their complaint to the Human Rights Commission, under the proposed amendment their case would have to be thrown out as the Human Rights Commission would be barred from proceeding with it.
“We agree with the Centre for Justice that the 2006 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) provides sufficient powers and comprehensive provisions to the police in relation to stop and search, powers of entry search and seizure, detention, questioning and treatment of people in detention whilst also importantly safeguarding the rights of suspects.
“This is unlike Section 315F of the 2005 Amendment to the Criminal Code, which allows stop and search without probable cause, does not safeguard the rights of those stopped or searched, has resulted in racial profiling, all of which CURB believes is unconstitutional.
“CURB understands the Act is due to be debated on Friday 7th June and is concerned that there has been no public consultation about Subsection (3) or discussion as to why it is needed, and there appears to be no context for it.
“We believe Subsection (3), like Section 315F of the Criminal Code, will result in our young, black males being at great risk for continued racial profiling. If this Act passes as is, the encroachment on everyone's civil liberties will be very hard to undo.
“CURB does not wish to hold up the passage of this historical and very important legislation, and we support the Centre for Justice in their call to have the Human Rights Act amendment passed — after removing Subsection 3 of Clause 6C.
“The Centre for Justice believes, and CURB concurs, that if this provision becomes law, this clause will allow the police to harass people with impunity.”
The group is urging the public to sign a petition prepared by the Centre for Justice.
Community Development Minister Wayne Scott has asked the Attorney General to take another look at the measure.
Government proposes to expand the definition of harassment by making it unlawful in all areas. Currently, it only applies to the workplace. But the draft law, which was tabled on May 17, prohibits harassment generally except in cases where it is shown that a “persistent course of conduct” is pursued for crime prevention or detection purposes, done in pursuit of a legal requirement or is shown to be reasonable.
The Centre for Justice has raised a red flag about the exception clause saying it would allow police harassment.