The Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), like the United Workers Party (UWP), has revealed that its recommendations on the government’s proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill were submitted to Attorney General Levi Peter well in advance of the final deadline.
The Bill was originally slated to be read three times in Parliament and passed into law on Monday, June 25, 2018, but both parties expressed strong concern about certain sections of the Bill and their supporters protested peacefully outside parliament on the day that the Bill was to have been passed.
The Bill was read only once in Parliament and the other two readings were postponed to give some time for recommendations and comments to be be submitted to the Attorney General. The original deadline of July 15, 2018 was subsequently extended to July 27, 2018.
Peter announced last week that the review process had started and that only submissions that had been received before the final deadline would be considered.
In a letter dated July 13, 2018, addressed to the Attorney General, a copy of which was obtained by Dominica News Online (DNO), Leader of the DFP, Kent Vital, outlined what he described as “broad suggestions” for adjustments to the bill before it is taken back to parliament.
He questioned the amount of time given for submissions and suggested that a minimum of three months would have been more appropriate.
On the matter of the party’s position on “substantive issues and suggestions” relating to the Bill, Vital wrote:
“We note that Section 2, Subsection 2 of Dominica Anti-terrorism Bill, provides an exception to section 3 (general definition of terrorist Act), we note the general intention contained in this section and that a similar intent is reflected in the UN model legislation and in most such Acts of other countries.”
He added that Jamaica goes a step further and says “this Act shall be interpreted and administered so as to ensure Jamaica’s conformity with its international obligations while protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution” and recommended that a similar clause be included in Dominica’s legislation.
“Given the present climate of extreme political mistrust in our country, it would be wise for the Government of Dominica to seek to place sufficient “guarantee” clauses into the Anti-terrorism Bill including those like the one above, in order to allay fear associated with political mistrust. It is better to seek peace than to create contention,” Vital noted.
Another major concern of the party has to do with detention under the legislation.
” Section 43 of Dominica’s Anti-terrorism Bill allows a police officer (with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecution) to go before the Court ex parte and obtain a detention order. It does not say that the detainee must appear before the court; it does not say that he has to be given an opportunity to be heard and represented,” Vital pointed out. “In effect, it is allowing a person suspected of a terrorist act, to be arrested and detained for up to 14 days without being charged, without appearing before the court.”
He said this was a matter of concern to everyone, because of the possibility of being arrested under the wide provisions discussed earlier,” Vital said. “Under our constitution, there is a limit of 72 hrs that one can be detained without being brought before the court and given the opportunity to be heard.”
Hence, Vital pointed out, this detention provision, appears to fly dangerously close to an infringement of persons’ constitutional rights.
“We recommend that this section of the bill be adjusted and the provision be made consistent with what is required in the constitution,” the DFP leader advised.
He further explained that Section 55 of Dominica’s Anti-terrorism Bill allows for persons to forthwith disclose information that they have that can assist in the prevention of a terrorist acts or in securing the arrest or prosecution of another person of an offence under the Act, or any offense under any other law and which also constitutes a terrorist act.
“The Bill notes that a person who fails to comply with this is guilty of an offence. It should be noted firstly that many people could be charged under this section given the wide exceptions to protest and demonstrations as discussed previously,” he noted. “Secondly, the act does not allow for the protection of persons who may wish to provide information yet it obligate persons to make such disclosures.”
He continued, “Some person may be reluctant to provide information due to fear for their safety. We recommend that this provision be reviewed in relation to how such matters may be best addressed.”
Below is the full text of the DFP letter to the Attorney General.