by Larry Smith
In 2005 I wrote a column about human rights abuses in the modern Bahamas.
Among other cases, I gave a summary of what was perhaps the worst such abuse up to that time. It involved an unfortunate individual named Atain Takitota, who claimed to be a Japanese citizen, although the authorities in Tokyo denied it.
Now about 50, Takitota was arrested by Immigration officers in Nassau in 1992. He had no money, no passport and spoke no English. No-one knew how he had arrived here or where he came from – despite efforts by the honorary Japanese consul, Basil Sands, to establish his identity.
So, for the indiscretion of being a homeless foreigner, Takitota spent the next eight years of his life billeted with hardened criminals in the maximum security wing at Fox Hill prison without charge. He endured the most appalling conditions, attempting suicide at least three times.
Eventually, a prison officer with heart brought him to the attention of sympathetic lawyers, who applied to the court for his release.
Attorney Sean Hanna sued the government on Takitota’s behalf. And in 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that his eight-year imprisonment was unconstitutional. It was not a tough call.
The court set aside the 1992 deportation order and directed the government to give Takitota the right to earn a living in the Bahamas. “One would expect that a certain minimum standard of civility and humanity would be the order of the day,” the court said at the time.