Govt bows to pressure over Human Rights amendment
Government is to withdraw a provision within proposed amendments to the Human Rights Act which critics claimed would enable the police to harass people.
The amendment expands the grounds on which discrimination is unlawful to include sexual orientation.
The Bill, which was tabled in the House of Assembly on May 17, prohibits harassment generally, but one clause allows for 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.
According to advocacy groups, the wording of the law would enable law enforcement agencies to discriminate “with impunity”.
“Given that the legislation is apparently scheduled for debate in the House of Assembly soon, we urge Government to delete this clause from the Act’s amendment,” a spokesman for the Centre for Justice said last week.
“We do not in any way want to hold up the passage of the Human Rights Act amendment, which has been so long awaited. But it would be a sad day for Bermuda if the amendment went forward as proposed — on the one hand granting rights to a group who should have been included decades ago, and on the other potentially taking away the rights of other groups.”
Government released a statement confirming that the clause will be withdrawn, it said Attorney General Mark Pettingill “having considered submissions from various groups and following extensive consultation on amendments to the Human Rights Act, has decided to withdraw clause six from the Human Rights Amendment Bill that was tabled in the House of Assembly on May 17, 2013”.
The Bill is expected to be debated in the House on Friday.
The Centre for Justice could not be reached for comment by press time last night.