The Ministry of Foreign Affairs read with concern an article in the 23 November 2019 edition of The Nassau Guardian, attributed to George Abu Al Zulof, a United Nations (UN) Senior Human Rights Advisor based in Jamaica. It is asserted that he recently visited The Bahamas to “verify “worrying” claims of “violence and abuse” used by Bahamian law enforcement officers.
The article goes on to state, inter alia, that Mr. George Abu Al Zulof visited The Bahamas being invited by the Bahamas Government “to discuss human rights matters related to deportations, repatriations, and other related issues”. It is further stated that he reported his findings to The Nassau Guardian. The remarks attributed to Mr. Abu Al Zulof are disturbing for a number of reasons. In the first instance, The Bahamas took the initiative to invite the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E. Michelle Bachelet, to visit the country.
The High Commissioner accepted the invitation by designating the United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i., Ms. Mariko Kagoshima, also based in Jamaica, to visit and meet with government officials. Mr. Abu Al Zulof was to accompany her. The officials with whom Ms. Kagoshima wished to meet were not available at the time she proposed. Therefore, the Resident Coordinator opted to wait until the relevant officials were in town. That meeting with Ms. Kagoshima and government officials subsequently took place 25 November. Mr. Abu Al Zulof was not present. Mr. Abu Al Zulof insisted on visiting The Bahamas instead of waiting to meet with relevant officials along with Ms. Kagoshima. Despite this, the Ministry assisted him in helping to plan his visit.
When his meeting concluded he made no effort to contact any official of the Government of The Bahamas to report on his findings, either verbally or in writing. The first time the Government became aware of his findings was when the information was published in The Nassau Guardian. These findings it is stated were a result of his having visited
shelters, the Farm and Abaco.
The Ministry is deeply concerned that a UN Official would report to the media regarding matters of such gravity without having the courtesy first to inform the Government and allow the Government the opportunity to provide a response.
The Ministry considers the behavior of Mr. Abu Al Zulof not to be in keeping with the way in which a UN official should conduct himself. Furthermore, it calls into question the impartial, balanced, neutral and ethical manner normally employed by the UN when it investigates allegations of alleged abuse or alleged human rights violations. The Bahamas Government is deeply appreciative of the support provided by the United Nations system during both the relief and recovery stages of Hurricane Dorian. The UN continues to have a strong presence in The Bahamas, providing invaluable technical support and advice.
The Bahamas is committed to working with the UN in a transparent, frank and constructive manner as we together seek to rebuild the communities adversely impacted and to restore the livelihoods of thousands of citizens and residents as a result of Hurricane Dorian. The Ministry had a very productive meeting with the Resident Coordinator and it is the hope of the Government that our interactions with the UN will continue to be positive.