Report No. 123 (1999) IACHR. Petition No. 12.086 (Bahamas)

CourtInter-American Comission of Human Rights
Report Number123
Case TypeAdmissibility
Petition Number12.086
Respondent StateBahamas
Alleged VictimBrian Schroeter y otro

Report Nº 123/99


CASE 12.086
BRIAN SCHROETER AND JERONIMO BOWLEG
THE BAHAMAS
September 27, 1999

I. SUMMARY

1. This report concerns a petition presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Commission”) by Anthony Kenny Esq., Solicitor, of Messrs. Lovell White Durant, Solicitors, in London, United Kingdom, (hereinafter as “the petitioners”) by letter dated January 7, 1999, on behalf of Messrs. Brian Schroeter and Jeronimo Bowleg (hereinafter "the victims"). The petition alleges that the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (hereinafter “the State” or “The Bahamas”) violated the victims' rights under the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Convention”) and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (hereinafter “the Declaration”).

2. The petitioners state that the victims, who are nationals of The Bahamas, were convicted of murder on June 17, 1994, and a mandatory death sentence was imposed on them. According to the petitioners, the victims appealed to the Court of Appeal of The Bahamas on September 4, 1996. The Court dismissed their appeals on July 23, 1997. The victims then petitioned the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for Special Leave to Appeal their convictions, and the Privy Council dismissed their petitions on June 3, 1998.

3. The petitioners argue that the petition is admissible because the victims have satisfied the requirements of Articles 46(1) of the Convention and 37(1) and 38(2) of the Commission’s Regulations. The petitioners also argue that the State has violated the victims’ rights under Articles 4(1) 4(2), 4(6) 5, 7(5), 8 (1), 8(2), 24 and 25 of the Convention and Articles I, II , XVII, XVIII, XI, XXV, and XXVI of the Declaration.

4. In their petition, the petitioners requested that the Commission issue Precautionary Measures pursuant to Article 29(2) of its Regulations against the State, and ask that the State take no steps to execute the victims to avoid irreparable damage to them while their cases are pending determination before the Commission. The petitioners also requested that the Commission declare that the State violated the victims' rights under the Convention and the Declaration, and that they be provided with an effective remedy entailing their release from detention. Moreover, the petitioners requested that the Commission schedule an oral hearing in the case, and conduct an on-site visit to death row at Fox Hill Prison, The Bahamas, to investigate the victims' conditions of detention.

5. In this report, the Commission concludes that the petitioners' claims relating to violations of the Declaration satisfy the requirements of Articles 37 and 38 of the Commission's Regulations and are therefore admissible. The Commission also concludes that the petitioners' claims relating to violations of the Convention are inadmissible.

II. PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

6. Upon receipt of the petition and submissions of the parties, the Commission complied with the requirements of its Regulations. The Commission studied the petition, requested information from the parties, and forwarded the pertinent parts of each party’s submissions to the other party.

7. On January 19, 1999, the Commission forwarded the pertinent parts of the petition to the State and requested observations within 90 days regarding exhaustion of domestic remedies and the claims raised in the petition. The Commission also requested that the State stay the victims' executions pending the Commission's investigation of the alleged facts.

8. On January 25, 1999, the petitioners forwarded additional information to the Commission on the issue of timeliness of the petition, and argued that the rules of both the Convention and the Declaration should apply in this case. The pertinent parts of this information were forwarded to the State on the same date.

9. Throughout the processing of this case before the Commission, the petitioners have requested that the Commission provide it with time limits as to when the Commission will issue a decision in the matter. On April 27, 1999, the Commission informed the petitioners that pursuant to the Commission’s mandate, it processes cases and issues decisions in accordance with its Regulations and was therefore unable to provide the petitioners with a time limit for its decision in this case.

10. By letter dated July 30, 1999, the petitioners informed the Commission as follows: “As you are aware, in compliance with the decision of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, The Bahamas will take its final decision before the five (5) year period has expired. It is therefore essential that we receive a decision by 2 January 2000. As the time is fast approaching I would be extremely grateful if you could inform us of the present position and whether this case has progressed further.”

11. By communication dated August 13, 1999, the petitioners informed the Commission that “[w]e have noted that the Commission has yet to reach a decision regarding this case. In light of this we would like to draw your attention to a ruling of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in October of 1998 on a Constitutional Motion brought by death row prisoner Trevor Fisher. It was decided that it was not unconstitutional to execute a person whose petition had been pending before the IACHR for more than 18 months. Trevor Fisher and Richard Woods were hanged on 16 October 1998, even though the IACHR had informed the government of the Bahamas it would issue its decision on both cases within two weeks. We would ask you to recognise our concern in relation to the case of Schroeter and Bowleg, as their petitions have now been under consideration for some time.” The Commission acknowledged receipt of this letter on September 7, 1999.

12. The Commission has not received any response from the State in respect of the petitioners' petition, despite the Commission's requests for information dated January 19, 1999 and January 25, 1999.

III. POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES ON ADMISSIBILITY

A. Position of the petitioners

a. Claims by the petitioners

13. The petitioners allege violations of Articles 4(1), 4(2), 4(6), 5, 7(5), 8 (1) 8(2), 24 and 25 of the American Convention, and Articles I, II, XVII, XVIII, XI, XXV, and XXVI, of the American Declaration, in connection with the trial, conviction and sentencing of the victims for the crime of murder in The Bahamas. More particularly, the petitioners argue that the mandatory death sentence imposed by the State pursuant to its penal law on every person convicted of murder violates the victims' rights to life under Article 4(1) of the Convention and Article I of the Declaration, and their rights to humane treatment under Article 5 of the Convention and Article XXVI of the Declaration.

14. In addition, the petitioners allege that the State has violated the victims' rights to apply for amnesty, pardon or commutation of sentence under Article 4(6) of the Convention, their rights to be promptly notified of the charges against them and to be brought promptly before a judge or judicial officer under Article 7 of the Convention, the right to a fair trial under Article 8 of the Convention, and the right to equality before the law under Article 24 of the Convention, together with violations of the corresponding rights under Articles II, XVIII, XXV and XXVI of the Declaration.

15. With respect to their alleged violations of Articles 4 and 24 of the Convention and the corresponding provisions of the Declaration, the petitioners argue that the domestic law of The Bahamas does not provide the victims with the right to make representations to the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, the body in The Bahamas with authority to grant amnesties, pardons and commutations of sentences. In addition, the petitioners argue that the absence of a hearing before the Advisory Committee or any other procedure regulated by law to enable an objective and proportionate decision on whether the death penalty is an appropriate punishment in the circumstances of the victims' cases violates Articles 4 and 24 of the Convention and Article II of the Declaration. In this regard, the petitioners also argue that the Advisory Committee’s discretion is too broad, arbitrary, and unaccountable to accord with human rights norms, and that it is for the party seeking to deprive the victims of their lives to refute the absence of inequality and discrimination in the operation of its penal law.

16. With respect to the petitioners' alleged violations of Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention and the corresponding provisions of the Declaration, the petitioners claim that the...

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