Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Oct 01, 2013
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines accused of abusing a group of Cuban detainees were yesterday charged with causing harm and causing a wound under care, their attorney Wayne Munroe said.
They were charged during a disciplinary hearing at the RBDF base at Coral Harbour.
The five marines were charged before the captain of the Coral Harbour base, he said.
Munroe originally represented four marines, but agreed to represent a fifth marine after he arrived at the hearing without legal representation.
Charged were a petty officer, a leading hand and two marine seamen. The rank of the fifth marine was unknown.
The petty officer was charged with a service offense as he was in command during the night in question, Munroe said. He said yesterday that his clients feel “demoralized”.
“They are disappointed at what has happened thus far,” he said.
“They train with people in the region and when they see how their counterparts are treated in similar situations, they feel disappointed at what has happened to them.”
The men are accused of abusing Cuban detainees after some of them attempted to escape from the facility four months ago.
The allegations have set off a firestorm of controversy and protests from a group of Miami-based protestors who labeled the incident as an “abuse of power”.
Munroe said his clients deny the allegation.
An RBDF officer, who is also a lawyer, is prosecuting the matter.
Munroe said the hearing was adjourned after he asked for more information concerning the case, including the Cuban detainees’ medical records.
“I am satisfied that they (the prosecution) are taking steps to get the information to me,” he said.
The hearing also proceeded without the presence of the three independent observers and the video camera promised by Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage, Munroe said.
“It’s either an open hearing or a closed hearing,” he said.
“How can it be closed and they have a camera recording the proceedings? That’s sheer dumbness.”
Nottage promised last week that though the hearings would be private, they would be recorded on camera and a full report would be issued at their conclusion.
He added that three independent observers would be permitted to attend the hearings in order “to assure the public that the proceedings are transparent and just”.
Munroe said his clients did not have confidence in their commander (Commodore Roderick Bowe) or Nottage to stand behind them if they had used firearms to subdue the detainees who attempted to escape.
The hearings should be open to the public, Munroe said, due to great public interest in the matter.
Nottage said last week that the hearings would be private to avoid publication of matters that may compromise national security.
Munroe said the hearings will resume once he has had the opportunity to review the files that he requested.
The disciplinary hearings are not criminal in nature.
Munroe said the marines could face a hold on their pay, a reduction in rank or other disciplinary actions that would be placed on their record.