Criston J Williams

An attorney has challenged Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s claim that this country has denounced the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Responding to a question posed by Opposition MP Rodney Charles over a recent precautionary measure issued by the IACHR over a group of Venezuelan migrant children in Parliament last week, Al-Rawi stated that former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, had removed this country from the IACHR convention in order to enforce the death penalty in 1998.

He said the persuasiveness of IACHR’s statement was noted but T&T must comply with its law and constitution.

On Charles’ call for T&T to update refugee law to prevent “further international embarrassment” in migration issues, Al- Rawi said T&T cannot ignore its Constitution and laws inviting chaos into the country by Charles whom he said “was interested in pleasing everyone but the people of T&T.”

In a statement by Guardian Media, attorney Criston J Williams claimed that this country could not denounce the IACHR without withdrawing from the Organisation of American States (OAS), as the IACHR is a core part of the OAS.

“You cannot acquire the benefits of an international organisation without being cognisant of its burdens and the international protection of the Rights of Man,” Williams said.

Williams referred to the OAS’s website, which lists T&T as a member, and United States Ambassador Anthony Phillps-Spencer as this country’s representative to the OAS.

He also pointed to the OAS’s Charter, which prescribes the process for a member state to denounce its membership.

Williams suggested that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowely should clear the air over T&T’s membership in the OAS and over whether this country is bound by United Nations conventions on refugees as the contravention of both organisations’ regulations may potentially lead to sanctions.

“This is a question the Prime Minister of the Republic of T&T ought to make abundantly clear to the electoral public,” Williams said.

“As a nation, our populace must understand that we must comply with our international obligations. We cannot make this current situation be resolved in a manner similar to the FIFA debacle,” Williams added.

Last week, lawyers representing six migrant children, who were among a group of 25 Venezuelan children and adults that returned to this country after being repatriated last month, have successfully petitioned the IIACHR over a potential move to deport them with litigation pending.

In a press release issued, the IACHR stated that it had granted precautionary measures against the move in relation to six children of the group of 16 children and nine adults, who did not receive orders from local judges.

Guardian Media understands that the group’s legal team was only able to file cases for 22 of the group as three children were unaccompanied and did not have close relatives living locally.

Of the 22 cases that were filed, one application for interim relief for an 11-year-old girl was dismissed by High Court Judge Frank Seepersad while the State gave an undertaking in relation to two minors and their mother.

Seepersad’s decision was appealed this week, with the case expected to be heard later this month.

“According to the request, the proposed beneficiaries are at risk of being deported to Venezuela without due analysis of their particular situations, where they allegedly face risk to their rights to life and personal integrity,” the IACHR said.

“Moreover, the commission highlighted that lack of the referred assessment encompasses further risks of irreparable harm in light of their specific vulnerabilities as children, and prevents an analysis on their best interest and the particular protection needs of the beneficiaries who are unaccompanied,” it added.

The IACHR also made note of statements made by Government officials on the migrants’ situation as it made mention of the fact that they were initially deported with litigation pending and without individual assessments.

“The commission notes, with great concern, that the deportation was carried out by placing children and other adults on pirogues into international waters, which by its nature, entails a serious risk to their lives,” it said.

The IACHR also express disappointment that it did not receive a response from the State even rebutting the migrants’ allegations.

It was careful to note that the measures would not prejudge any potential case, which may eventually be brought before it.


About the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The Inter- American Commission has the mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.