Bill of Rights
Part 1 Sections 1 - 28
"Rights" means something you are allowed to do. The government and all your public services must respect your rights. Some rights cannot be taken away, while other rights must be balanced against of the rights of others. For the first time the Cayman Islands has a Bill of Rights that guarantees the basic freedoms and human rights of all. While it is important to protect these rights for individuals, the freedoms they afford must be balanced with the need to protect and safeguard society as a whole. Accordingly some of the rights outlined below are absolute while others are limited, or qualified. The Bill of Rights will not be enforced until November 2012 (three years from following the commencement of the newly modernized Constitution on November 6 2009). This is allowing the Government sufficient time to complete the necessary preparations it needs to enact the Bill of Rights on both local and legislative levels.
The Constitution requires all branches of the public service to protect and promote the following rights to which persons have absolute, limited or qualified entitlement:
It is universally believed that every person’s right to life should be protected by law. The Bill of Rights states that under very limited circumstances, it is acceptable and lawful to take a life. For example, a life can be taken lawfully when police, or other armed forces, are preserving the Islands’ peace by disbanding riots.
Torture and Inhuman Treatment
This absolute right means that the government cannot torture or degrade you; or allow anyone else to torture or degrade you, at any time – whether in times of war, or other public emergencies. (Absolute rights cannot be limited in any way. They cannot be reduced or amended.)
- Torture is deliberate, treatment that causes serious and cruel suffering.
- Inhuman treatment or punishment is less severe than torture, but it’s still ill treatment.
Whether or not the treatment is degrading depends, among other things, on the nature, seriousness and duration of the treatment; how it affects the victim mentally and/or physically; and on the age, sex, or state of health of the victim. For example, torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment, can include severe police violence and poor detention conditions for arrested persons or prisoners.
Slavery , Forced or Compulsory Labour (section 4)
You have a right to not be treated like a slave, or forced to perform certain kinds of labour.
- Being a slave means someone actually owns you, like a piece of property. It also refers to cases in which you work for little or no pay. For example, "slaves" can include victims of human trafficking to supply labour or sex trade. This is an absolute right and is not permitted, even in times of war or other public emergencies.
- Being in servitude means that you may live on the property or work on the premises, but you are not free to leave at your own will. Servitude is different from slavery in that the person does not actually own you. This is an absolute right and is not permitted, even in times of war or other public emergencies.
- Forced or compulsory labour means that neither government, nor a person, could force you to work. This is not an absolute right, meaning there are lawful circumstances in which you can be forced to work. For example, you can be forced to work by court order; if you belong to a disciplined force, and therefore are required to carry out specific types of labour; if you are lawfully detained by government, and are required to carry out specific tasks to ensure where you live is well maintained; or in cases of public emergency where labour is required.
You have the right to be free, but this right is limited. For example, this right does not apply when detention is lawful. This right also includes the following rights for detained persons:
- The right to remain silent;
- To be promptly informed of the reasons for the arrest and any charge against him or her, in a language that he or she understands;
- Quick access to judicial proceedings;
- Trial within a reasonable time; or
- Release from detention pending trial.
Treatment of Prisoners
Persons under arrest or detained have the right to be treated with humanity and dignity. This means you must be treated properly by custodial staff, must be given regular meals, and must have access to reasonable health care, etc. Also, as of November 2013, section 6 (2) the government will be required to separate persons who are not convicted from convicted prisoners, except in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health other administration of justice otherwise require. Per section 6(3) Juvenile prisoners will be separated from adult prisoners; treated appropriately to their age and legal status; and their trials will be pursued as quickly as possible.
Everyone has the right to a fair trial, and if you are charged, you will be presumed innocent. Other rights include:
- Adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence;
- Access to legal representation;
- The right to examine witnesses; and
- The right to be assisted, at no cost to you, by a foreign-language interpreter.
Under this right, you are not required to give evidence at trial; and cannot be re-tried for an offence after you have been legally pardoned for it.
No Punishment without Law
This right means that you cannot be found guilty of a crime for something you did which was not against the law when you did it. For example, you cannot be charged today for stalking, because stalking is not currently a criminal offence in the Cayman Islands. This right also means that you cannot be made to stay longer in jail just because the punishment for your crime is made longer when you are in prison.
Private and Family Life
Under this right, the respect of your private and family life, your home; and your correspondence is protected ("correspondence" could include communication by letter, telephone, fax, and e-mail). The concept of "private life" is broad. In general, it means you have the right to live your own life, with reasonable personal privacy in a democratic society, taking into account the rights and freedom of others. This right limits the extent to which government can invade your bodily privacy without your permission, such as taking blood samples. This right can also extend to the government putting in place laws to prevent the media from intruding into your life. Any interference with your right to private and family life by the government needs to be justified and must achieve a legitimate public objective. Grounds for government interference include the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.
Conscience and Religion
You are free to hold particular beliefs, and to practice your religion. However, this right is not absolute. The Government can interfere with this right if it is absolutely necessary in the interest of defence, public morality, public order, public health and public safety. This right protects you and your children, from being forced to receive religious instruction that does not follow your, or their, personal beliefs.
It also allows church schools to continue teaching their religious principles to willing children, regardless of whether or not the schools receive government funding. Lastly this right allows schools and community educational institutions to impose requirements on employment, admission, or curriculum design, in order to maintain the schools’ religious beliefs, subject to the laws in force.
You have the right to hold opinions and express your views, either as an individual or with others. "Expression" includes speaking aloud; publishing articles, books or leaflets; making television or radio broadcasts; and producing works of art. Government interference with this right has to be justified, in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health. Other grounds for interference to this right are justified in order to protect the rights, reputations, and freedoms of other persons, or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings; or to impose certain restrictions on public officers, in the interest of the proper performance of their functions.
Assembly and Association
You have the right to assemble with others in a peaceful way. This includes the right to protest, particularly against the government, in a peaceful way. This right includes the right to form associations, political parties, etc. On the other hand, this right also ensures that you cannot be forced to join an association. In very restricted circumstances, government can interfere with this right. However, it must be necessary; have a clear aim; and be sound in law. Some examples include preventing disorder and crime.
You have the right to move freely within the Islands; to reside in any part in the Islands; and to enter or leave the Islands without government restriction. This right, however, is not absolute. Government can impose restrictions in the interests of defence, public safety, public morality, public order or public health; and to protect the rights and freedoms of others. These restrictions usually relate to immigration controls; the courts’ right to restrict your movement, as part of bail conditions or sentence; and extradition cases.
A consenting unmarried man or woman has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex. So while government can regulate marriage, it cannot prevent it. Nor can the Government prevent or limit the right of a married couple to have a family. In cases of adoption, adoption laws must apply.
You have a right to enjoy the things that you own. Government cannot interfere with things you own or the way you use them. Under this right, "property" is broadly defined. It includes businesses, and your right to pension; property that you can see and touch, such as land, a car or a boat; and invisible possessions, such as shares in a company, and court-ordered compensation. There are very restricted circumstances in which government can interfere with the way you use your property. Planning laws are a good example of this. Under this right, government can regulate development for public interest purposes, which would include ensuring that all landowners can peaceably enjoy their property. Another restriction is the compulsory purchase scheme, where it’s in the public interest for government to purchase property – as in for building roads. However, before your property can be taken by the government, it must satisfy the public interest test. In other words, this action must be necessary, and the landowner(s) must be compensated, unless government can justify otherwise.
Discrimination means treating people in similar situations differently, without justification. This right gives you protection from discrimination, in relation to all other rights that the Bill of Rights guarantees. This means that, based on your sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, age, mental or physical disability, property, birth, or other status you cannot be treated differently in relation to these constitutional rights.
- Against torture and inhumane treatment
- Against slavery or forced or compulsory labour
- Personal liberty
- No punishment without law
- Private and family life
- Conscience and religion
- Assembly and association
- Protection as a child
- Protection of the environment
- Lawful administrative action
This right endorses Cayman’s obligations to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. It covers conventional obligations such as a child’s right to a name from the time of birth; to basic nutrition, shelter, health services and social services; protection from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation; protection from exploitative labour practices; and protections if the child enters the justice system.
Protection of the Environment
You and your community have the right to the protection and preservation of your environment. The Government is obligated to implement legislation and other measures to protect Cayman’s heritage, wildlife, and land and sea biodiversity; prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote biodiversity; secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources.
Lawful Administrative Action
This right upholds the rule of law. It means that in your dealings with government, you have a constitutional right to be treated fairly. This right extends to any decision government makes in relation you. If you are not satisfied with a decision that government made, you can ask government to provide a written explanation of its decision.
You have the right to access the educational system, and a right to effective education. Parents have the right to make sure that the teaching provided by public authorities respects their religious and philosophical beliefs. If the subjects are reasonable for the school to teach, parents cannot stop the subjects from being taught. However, parents can remove their children from certain classes, such as sex education and religious classes, if these teachings are contrary to the parent’s and child’s beliefs. This right obligates the government to make a concerted effort to provide free primary and secondary education in the future, within its economic means. However, this right does not automatically guarantee free primary and secondary education.
Last Updated: 2010-08-16