A video purporting to show a Bahamian guard kicking Cuban migrants detained in Nassau has been branded a forgery by the Nassau government but sparked a call for a protest Wednesday at the Bahamas consulate in Miami.
The video was taken with a hidden cellular phone by one of the 30 Cubans held in the Nassau Detention Center, according to the Spanish-language television channel América TeVé in Miami, which first broadcast it on Friday.
The Miami-based Democracy Movement urged protesters to honk their car and truck horns as they drive past the Bahamian consulate in downtown Miami starting at noon on Wednesday.
Cuban migrants intercepted by Bahamian authorities on their way to U.S. shores and detained in Nassau have long complained of abuses, from beatings by guards to rats, lice and cockroaches in the detention center. Most are eventually deported to Cuba.
Fred Mitchell, Bahamas minister of foreign affairs and immigration, issued a statement dismissing the video as a complete falsehood and an outrageous concoction and a manufactured attempt to create a damaging and defamatory impression of The Bahamas.
He added that the video shows no faces, that the accent of the guard heard screaming at the Cubans is not Bahamian and that its setting does not appear to match the interior of the Nassau Detention Center.
We have had the video examined by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and it is being further reviewed by the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Mitchell said in the statement, published over the weekend on the Website of the Bahamas Weekly.
America TeVe broadcast gruesome photos in early June, also taken with cell phones, of some of the Cuban detainees in Nassau who sewed their lips together to protest the centers conditions and their detention. One put a lock through his upper and lower lips.
The video purports to show a guard retaliating for the publication of those photos. It shows the lower half of someone wearing camouflaged pants and black military boots kicking and stomping on what seem like four Cuban detainees cowering on the floor.
One male voice is heard shouting This is my country!
America TeVe on Friday also quoted one Cuban detainee as saying that the group had been beaten severely, and broadcast still photos of one Cuban bleeding from the face and another showing a baton-shaped red welt across his bare back.
Mitchells statement said the Bahamas government has referred the matter to our lawyers and that the Acting Consul General in Miami has been instructed to make the strongest protest to the station over this matter.
The Bahamas government does not beat those in its custody. All detainees are treated with respect and in accordance with all applicable conventions and with human dignity and courtesy, he said.
But after so thoroughly dismissing the video as a fabrication, the final paragraph of the statement said the government planned to investigate.
A follow up investigation is being done to seek to find out if by some remote chance there is any aspect of this that bears a scintilla of truth, he declared. We are confident that there is no truth to it but do so out of an abundance of caution.