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Daily Court Reporter - News IBAHRI calls on Bermuda, the UK and Commonwealth countries to protect LGBTI rights


IBAHRI calls on Bermuda, the UK and Commonwealth countries to protect LGBTI rights

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) today published three detailed letters sent on 21 June 2018 to the Premier of Bermuda, the then Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Secretary-General (SG) of the Commonwealth of Nations condemning the efforts of the legislature of Bermuda to reverse the Supreme Court of Bermuda’s 2017 decision regarding same-sex marriage. The letters also express concern at the general lack of support for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, collectively referred to as the LGBTI community, in the country.

In May 2017, the Supreme Court of Bermuda passed a decision that found citizens of Bermuda were entitled to marry persons of the same sex. A number of marriages were lawfully conducted pursuant to the Court’s judgment. However, a bill to reverse the Court’s decision, by banning same-sex marriages and establishing domestic partnerships, was passed by the Bermudan Parliament in December 2017. The bill received royal assent on 7 February 2018 and the law came into effect on 1 June 2018. Same-sex marriages performed prior to that date are to remain legally recognised.

Two lawsuits were filed against the domestic partnership law, and on 6 June 2018 the Supreme Court of Bermuda revoked the parts of the law banning same-sex marriages, finding the reversal to be inconsistent with the Bermudan Constitution and therefore invalid. Thereafter, the ruling was stayed for six weeks to allow the government to appeal.

In the IBAHRI’s letter to the Premier of Bermuda, the Honourable David Burt, JP MP, the IBAHRI Co-Chairs Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell, former United Nations Legal Counsel and Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, and the Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG, a former Australian Justice, urge the government of Bermuda to support fully the judgment of the Supreme Court, implement it in good faith, and give leadership to countries of the Caribbean that continue to discriminate against their citizens, contrary to universal human rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The correspondence sent to the SG of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC, articulates the IBAHRI Co-Chairs’ deep regret at ‘the silence of the Commonwealth Secretariat during the recent efforts of the legislature of Bermuda to reverse the human rights-based decision of the Supreme Court of Bermuda’, despite provisions in the Charter of the Commonwealth that reaffirm the principles of equality and non-discrimination governing all Commonwealth citizens.

The third epistle from Ambassador (ret.) Corell and the Hon Mr Kirby conveys the IBAHRI’s concern at the failure of the UK government to advise His Excellency the Governor of Bermuda, John Rankin, to withhold royal assent to the discriminatory legislation adopted by the legislature of Bermuda. They note: the government of the UK ‘became itself an actor in the deprivation of human rights, equality and justice of LGBTI Bermudan citizens’, highlighting the failure of the UK ‘to act in accordance with its own laws and asserted principles’. The Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP was in office when the letter was sent, though he has since resigned.

The IBAHRI further urges that steps be taken to repeal the criminal laws that result in many cases of death, violence, discrimination and injustice against the LGBTI minority in a number of Commonwealth countries. The report of the Eminent Persons Group at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2009 is referenced in one letter to strengthen the opinion, which states: ‘the repeal of such laws is an urgent necessity, not only on the basis of human rights and the Commonwealth’s own Charter, but also on the basis of ensuring an effective response to HIV/AIDS in Commonwealth countries where rates of infection are significantly higher than in countries without such laws’.

The IBAHRI supports the positive development made by Bermuda’s Supreme Court and encourages further action towards the protection against the diminution of the rights of those comprising the LGBTI community.

At the time of writing, the IBAHRI has not received any responses to the missives sent on 21 June 2018.

About the International Bar Association

The International Bar Association, established in 1947, is the world's leading international organisation of legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. The IBA influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

It has a membership of more than 80,000 individual lawyers and more than 190 bar associations and law societies spanning over 170 countries. It has considerable expertise in providing assistance to the global legal community.

The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

Date Published: September 20, 2018


International Bar Association


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