08 September, 2010
It is accepted that Montserratians live in a country under threat by volcanic eruptions as well as hurricanes. States of emergency may have to be declared from time to time. The traditional constitutional provisions are well known, and have been tested in the courts. There is no need to weaken the rights of the average Montserratian only because there is a risk of more natural disasters striking.
The draft Constitution would have the section 18 provision for protection of persons detained under emergency laws significantly curtail the rights of the detained person.
There is no good reason why the family and the public should wait 10 days to be notified of the identities of persons detained. It should be no more than 3 days.
Nor is there any reason why persons should be able to be detained for up to 30 days without an appearance before the court. This should be no more than 5 days.
Nor is there any need for any other tribunal but the established courts of the island. Except in a police state, the courts are the most reliable protector of the rights and freedoms of the citizen.
The evil does not stop there. The draft states that if an independent tribunal recommends that a detainee be released, the authority that locked them up in the first place can ignore the Tribunal’s recommendation. This provision would mean that the authority could ignore a decision of someone such as a judge appointed by the Chief Justice to preside over the tribunal. This should be a frightening prospect.