Q:What is the Human Rights Commission?

The Human Rights Commission ("the Commission") was created by the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009. The primary responsibility of the Commission is to promote understanding and observance of human rights in the Cayman Islands. This remit includes educating the public about the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities (Part 1 of the Constitution), most of which came into effect on 6 November 2012 (with the s.6(2) and s.6(3) coming into effect on 6 November 2013).


The HRC has the power to —

  • receive and investigate complaints of breaches or infringements of any right or freedom contained in the Bill of Rights or international human rights treaties that have been extended to the Cayman Islands, and investigate such possible breaches or infringements on its own initiative;
  • provide advice to persons who consider that their rights or freedoms have been infringed;
  • provide a forum for dealing with complaints by mediation or conciliation or by making recommendations;
  • issue guidance on procedure for dealing with any complaints of breaches or infringements of rights and freedoms;
  • contribute to public education about human rights;
  • issue reports relating to human rights issues on its own initiative;
  • undertake such other functions, for the purpose of fulfilling its primary responsibility, as may be conferred on it by a law enacted by the Legislature.

The HRC does not have the power to —

  • represent or provide representation to parties in litigation;
  • act in a judicial capacity or make binding determinations as to whether any right or freedom contained in the Bill of Rights or any international human rights treaty or instrument has been breached;
  • compel any person to do anything against his/her will.

No, the Human Rights Commission is an independent body which is deemed crucial for the effectiveness and legitimacy of the Commission.

Yes, the Commission must make an annual report to the Legislative Assembly about its activities.

All members are appointed by the Governor, acting after consultation with the Premier and Leader of the Opposition.

The Chairman is expected to chair each meeting and oversee the participation of all of the members in the activities of the Commission. Additionally in the event that a vote is tied during a decision making process the Chairman shall have a casting vote in addition to his or her original vote.

Commission members are expected to attend each meeting and participate in the activities of the Commission.

Appointments to the Human Rights Commission are for renewable terms of between two to four years, with members serving for different periods, so that new appointments or re-appointments can take place in a staggered fashion.

No, the Commission Members are volunteers who receive a small stipend for their hard work and dedication. Members receive $100 per meeting with a maximum stipend of $500 per month and the Chairman receives $200 per meeting with a maximum stipend of $1000 per month.

The Commission receives administrative, research, policy, strategic, and other support from the Commissions Secretariat. The Commissions Secretariat falls under the purview of both the Office of the Governor and the Portfolio of the Civil Service.

Concerns regarding the behaviour of a Human Rights Commission member as it pertains to their role on the Commission must be directed to Her Excellency the Governor.

Human rights are the essential rights and freedoms that belong to all individuals regardless of their nationality and citizenship. These rights are considered fundamental to maintaining a fair and just society. In general, the rights of one person cannot be used to ‘trump’ the right of the general public to be kept safe from a real risk of serious injury or loss of life.

Ideas about human rights have evolved over many centuries. They achieved strong international support following the Holocaust and World War II. To protect future generations from a repeat of these horrors, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1945.

In 1946, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) came into effect by nations of the Council of Europe to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.

The ECHR now serves as the most enforceable human rights treaty in the world. It is interpreted as a "living instrument" that is modernized by moving with the times and can be interpreted by courts as such.

All across the world, many countries are learning to 'take human rights home' by introducing constitutions or human rights laws and commissions to safeguard the rights of their citizens.

By understanding and adhering to the human rights legislation detailed in the Bill of Rights (Part One of the 2009 Constitution), we can strive toward becoming a stronger society where all human beings are equally valued, can participate fully and are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.

The responsibility for building a successful society rests within us all.

It's your human rights, your country and your Constitution.

Educate yourself, understand your rights, learn how to protect them and learn what the Constitution does to ensure your rights are respected.

As a British Overseas Territory, the Cayman Islands are a democratic nation, founded on the values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

The Constitution brings positive changes to how the country is run. It brings a more balanced style of governance in the shape of increased consultation and accountability at a local level.

The Constitution gives you get greater protection for your rights and freedoms and greater authority to defend them.

The Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of democracy. All the rights and freedoms contained carry responsibility.

The Bill of Rights:

  • Embeds protection for fundamental rights;
  • Tailors to local needs and values;
  • Includes extra rights in other treaties like the ICCPR/ UDHR;
  • Details standards in service; and
  • Promotes culture for the respect of rights.

The preamble to the Constitution details the values of the Cayman Islands upon which this legislation was drafted.

The Bill of Rights came into effect on 6 November, 2012 (except for sections 6 (2) and (3) which come into effect on 6 November, 2013). This gave Government sufficient time to amend laws and complete other administrative or related preparations. The Bill of Rights details your fundamental human rights and freedoms in Part One of the Constitution as well as the responsibilities for adherence placed on all Government bodies and public sector officials.

The Cayman Constitution adds additional protection for your rights in areas with regards to the environment, children, prisoners and movement which will be enforceable in local courts.

Historically, your fundamental human rights were protected by a combination of Common law, new laws and UK obligations. You also received additional rights and freedoms under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and other international Human Rights Treaties that have been extended to Cayman.

Learn more about each of the rights detailed in the Bill of Rights by reading the In Simple Terms documents produced by the Commission.

The Government as a whole, including all public officials and civil servants under current employment must adhere to the Bill of Rights.

However please also note that if the Government appoints a delegated person and/or organization such as an NGO to act in accordance with duties and responsibilities of a public official, then they too are bound by the Bill of Rights.

This means that the Government bodies and Public sector workers detailed above have to make principled human rights decisions, ensuring all actions taken are lawful, responsible, proportionate and compatible with the Bill of Rights.

All laws must be in line with the Bill of Rights. If this is not possible, the court must make a declaration of this. Then the Legislative Assembly has the opportunity to amend the law.

If you believe that your rights and freedoms outlined in the Constitution or in any Human Rights Treaties extended to Cayman have been breached or violated, the Constitution has provisions to help you in two ways:

You can:

  • Apply to the court, asking to make a judgment about your human rights.
  • Contact the Human Rights Commission using the complaint form

When making human rights judgments, Cayman’s courts must consider Cayman as well as European case law.

In the 2009 Constitution the Government and all your public services must respect your rights. However not all rights are written in the same way.

Rights in the Constitution fall under three categories: absolute, limited and qualified rights.

Absolute rights: These rights could not be limited in any way. They could not be reduced or amended.

Examples would include the right to protection from slavery or torture.

Limited rights: These rights would come with expressed or implied exceptions.

An example would be the right to liberty, which could be lawfully restricted. Lawful arrest would also be an example of a limited right.

Qualified rights: The Government interference with these rights would be allowed in special circumstances, and only when necessary in a democratic society. The interference must fulfill a pressing social need; pursue a legitimate aim; and be proportionate to the aims being pursued.

An example would be government restrictions on the right to assembly and association, in order to calm a riot.

Local courts in Cayman are required to interpret some rights using a "margin of appreciation".

This means that the Government can lawfully infringe human rights if it is justified and serves a legitimate public purpose.

In 1986 the Right of Individual Petition was extended to the Cayman Islands enabling persons to take cases of human rights violations or breaches to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France under the guidelines of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Vertical application of rights means rights will apply vertically so that they can be enforced by a citizen against the Government only – but not against other private individuals or companies. The 2009 Constitution details these types of rights only.

It should be noted however, the Government will have to take account of the human rights set out in the Constitution when passing local laws, so there will be 'indirect' horizontal application of human rights principles to private individuals. This is discussed further below.

Although the Constitution details only those rights which will apply vertically (i.e. only against Government), the option also exists for these rights to be applied ‘horizontally’ as well.

The Government can pass local legislation requiring all in the Cayman Islands to comply with certain rights e.g. rights for the disabled.

Horizontal application of rights means a person can also enforce rights against other private individuals or companies.

The Human Rights Commission may be contacted through the Secretariat in the following ways:

Phone:  +1 (345) 244-3685

Fax:  +1 (345) 945-8649

Website:  www.humanrightscommission.ky

E-mail:  info@humanrightscommission.ky

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 391 KY1-1106

Physical Address:  2nd Floor Artemis House, 67 Fort Street

FOI requests:  foi.cos@gov.ky