By Krystel Rolle
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- The investigation into the alleged abuse of Cuban detainees at a detention centre in The Bahamas is complete and proceedings against the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines implicated in the matter will commence "imminently", Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage revealed on Tuesday.
Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage during a press conference on Tuesday. Torrell Glinton TNG 2013
He said the proceedings are being conducted in accordance with the Defence Act and Regulations, and are comparable to a trial before a magistrate’s court. However, he added that it is not a criminal hearing. He said based on the outcome of the proceedings, officials will determine what will happen next.
“The persons who have been implicated in any way will have the opportunity to have their case heard by the defence force process,” Nottage said during a press conference at the Ministry of National Security on Tuesday afternoon.
"This isn't anything new. The defence force constantly has to deal with reports or infractions by persons who are a part of [this] agency.”
“Just understand that the defence force has a stipulated process and these are defence force marines who are subject to that process and they are being dealt with in accordance with that process.”
Nottage did not reveal the names of the marines who are implicated, nor would he say how many officers are involved.
According to one of the marines interviewed as part of the initial investigation by the RBDF, Cuban detainees were severely beaten at the detention centre for almost two hours after they attempted to escape on May 20, and one even appeared to have temporarily lost consciousness as a result of the abuse. That information was compiled in a report that was leaked to The Nassau Guardian last month.
Randy Rodriguez, a former detainee who was granted asylum by the United States, said he was "mercilessly" kicked on the floor by guards, pepper sprayed and doused with water.
Nottage said he will refrain from commenting on the case until the proceedings are complete.
He added that the hearings will be held in private; however, a full report of the proceedings will be issued at the conclusion.
"This is to avoid publication of matters which may compromise national security," he said.
“However, three independent observers will be permitted to attend the hearings in order to assure the public that the proceedings are transparent and just."
Nottage said the independent observers have yet to be chosen, but the group chosen is likely to include a judge, a member of the church and a person who is familiar with such proceedings.
He said the names will be released shortly.
Nottage said he expects the hearings to be dealt with as quickly as rules permit.
"It is our hope that it will be complete in the shortest time possible consistent with transparency and fairness," he said.
Nottage’s announcement comes as Cuban-American protest group Democracy Movement continues to agitate and demand answers from the government.
The group plans to submit a report to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the alleged abuse, group spokesman Ramon Sanchez told The Guardian on Sunday.
The move is another measure the group is taking as it continues to push for the Bahamian government to start its formal investigation into the abuse claims and release a report on this probe to the public.
The Free National Movement has also called on the government to release a report.
Nottage said on Tuesday that both groups are only concerned about “politics”.
“They would have Cuban detainees come to The Bahamas, break our laws and we are supposed to treat them with the red carpet,” Nottage said referring to Democracy Movement.
“But as you know there is now a constant trickle of Cubans through our waters. There are 17 in the detention centre today. Cuba has agreed to take 14 of them, who we expect to be returned to Cuba sometime this week. At the same time, we found another 13 who were in Grand Bahama this morning.”
Nottage said Democracy Movement has not been fair to the country.
However, he added that the government does not condone abuse of any kind.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian