Observers named for Defence Force hearings
ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Oct 03, 2013
The government yesterday announced the appointment of three independent observers who will attend the disciplinary hearings of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines accused of abusing a group of Cuban detainees.
Retired Justice Cheryl Albury, former Defence Force Commander Leon L. Smith and Bahamas Christian Council President Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson have been appointed to sit in on the hearings, the first of which took place on Monday.
Patterson, who was contacted for comment, said he has been in talks with national security officials about the role for some time, but they have not discussed in much detail the exact objectives of the independent observers.
“We still need to sit down and discuss the objectives before I can give any further details on the proceedings,” he said. “But I expect to do so soon.”
Nottage promised last week the independent observers would be permitted to attend the hearings in order to assure the public that the proceedings are “transparent and just”.
He added that though the hearings would be private, they would be recorded on camera and a full report would be issued at their conclusion.
According to the accused marines’ attorney Wayne Munroe, Monday’s hearing at the RBDF base at Coral Harbour proceeded without the presence of the independent observers.
Munroe said the hearing also proceeded without the presence of the video camera promised by Nottage.
When asked about the independent observers not being a part of that first hearing, Patterson said that he would prefer not to comment until after the meeting with officials.
The marines — a petty officer, a leading hand, two marine seamen and a fifth marine, whose rank is unknown — were charged with causing harm and causing a wound under care, Munroe said.
He said the petty officer was charged with a service offense as he was in command during the night in question.
The attorney said his clients deny the allegations.
The men are accused of abusing Cuban detainees after some of them attempted to escape from the Carmichael Road Detention Centre four months ago.
The disciplinary hearings are not criminal in nature.
Munroe said Monday’s hearing was adjourned after he asked for more information concerning the case, including the Cuban detainees’ medical records.
He said the hearings will resume once he has had the opportunity to review the files that he requested.