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The United Nations General Assembly voted on 2022-11-14 to hold Russia responsible for war reparations.

Tally
94 For
14 Against
73 Abstain

The "For" and "Abstain" votes are understandable (e.g. the abstainers didn't want to explicitly antagonize Russia or NATO).

The "Against" countries were:

  • The Bahamas
  • Belarus
  • Central African Republic
  • China
  • Cuba
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Mali
  • Nicaragua
  • Russian Federation
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Zimbabwe

There are no surprises here either, except for the first country in the list.

Why did The Bahamas vote in favour of Russia?
Has the political situation there changed so much since I visited 10 years ago, when it had a very British/American feel (so likely to think along similar lines) and an open and prosperous atmosphere (so unlikely to want to significantly change what they have)?

Note that this is not a duplicate of Why did ten countries side with Russia in the UN General Assembly vote on Crimea?; it's asking specifically about The Bahamas.

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2 Answers 2

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It appears that the delegation intended to vote 'Abstain', but that the vote was incorrectly recorded as 'Against'. You can see the country's vote change on the board just as the chair reports that voting has been completed in the video recording of the proceedings here, at 3:18:10. The vote is now officially recorded by the UN as 'Against'.

Two days later, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell addressed Parliament, addressing the vote - according to the Nassau Guardian:

Unfortunately, due to an error, the vote of The Bahamas was recorded as 'no' when it should have been 'abstain'.

We have a photograph of the board reflecting abstain, but when the vote closed, the vote recorded as no. It should have been abstain.

We have taken the steps to seek to reflect properly what the record is, but we've been advised that in the system of the United Nations, it is not possible to change what is the recorded vote and the procedure is that you enter a statement which corrects the record which we have done.

Furthermore, the representative from the Bahamas spoke during the debate on the resolution on behalf of CARICOM with an explanation of vote in which he presented the community's misgivings with the resolution and signalled the group's intention to abstain on the vote.

In the speech, which starts at about 2:59:30 in the recording of the proceedings, he first condemned the unilateral military incursion into Ukraine and put forward CARICOM's subscription to the principle that for every wrong there is a remedy. He went on, however, to set out the group's issues with the resolution:

Mr President, at the same time, while CARICOM supports in principle Ukraine's legitimate claim for reparations for wrongs committed against it by Russia, we believe that such a process must be pursued through an appropriate mechanism. What is being proposed in this resolution contemplates that the General Assembly should endorse a process over which it will have no control, no oversight, indeed no role to play whatsoever. The resolution as drafted asks member states, having thus given their approval, to then trust that the process will be conducted fairly and objectively with integrity, transparency, and in accordance with the relevant principles of international law.

Mr President, CARICOM notes in OP 3 of the text "the need for the establishment in cooperation with Ukraine of an international mechanism for reparation for damage, loss or injury, and arising from the internationally wrongful acts of the Russian Federation in or against Ukraine". We also note the recommendation OP 4 for "the creation by member states in cooperation with Ukraine of an international register of damage to serve as a record of evidence and claims, information on damage, loss or injury, to all natural and legal persons concerned". In CARICOM's analysis of this call to action by the General Assembly, we offer the following observations on certain aspects of the draft.

  1. The resolution does not provide any guiding principles on how the future mechanism would operate, or how the register of damage is to be created or managed. In addition, member states are being asked to act on these initiatives in the context of an ongoing war with no real ability to predict any future developments or outcomes.
  2. Noting that while there are ongoing judicial processes addressing the situation in Ukraine, there is as yet no established jurisdictional basis for the proposed mechanism, nor the register of damage. Neither are pursuant to Security Council resolution, nor an order of the International Court of Justice. Furthermore, it is not within the power of the General Assembly under the UN Charter to create these initiatives.

For these reasons, member states of CARICOM will abstain in their vote on this resolution. Nevertheless, CARICOM recognises that the Russian Federation must bear the legal consequences of all its wrongful acts, for any violations of international law, and/or for any violations of international humanitarian law in or against Ukraine. Indeed Mr President, CARICOM reiterates its strong support for the principle that member states have a legitimate right to claim reparations and compensation for injury, loss and damage caused by the wrongful actions of other member states. This principle is to be applied in the present case, as well as other similar cases worldwide. CARICOM makes this broader point regarding a range of issues before the international community, including climate action, and indeed reparations in connection with the transatlantic slave trade and native genocide.

Mr President, mass atrocity crimes and gross violations of international law demand scrutiny and justice, without exception for whenever in time they occurred, wherever in the world they occurred, and by whomever they were perpetrated. There will always exist a moral and/or legal obligation to correct injustice, including the legacy of past injustice. In closing, CARICOM reaffirms its strong opposition to any and all actions which instigate the disruption of a peaceful multilateral order. We, therefore, reiterate the call for an end to hostilities, the immediate complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian military forces from the territory of Ukraine, and the return to dialogue and diplomacy in good faith, to peacefully and constructively resolve differences.

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    "The resolution does not provide any guiding principles on how the future mechanism would operate, or how the register of damage is to be created or managed." Read: it would create an unmanaged monster that can be turned against anyone at any time.
    – jwenting
    Nov 17, 2022 at 13:47
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To my knowledge the Bahamas haven't explained the vote but it's not difficult to speculate. One of the largest industries in the Bahamas is off-shore banking. Reuters reported in March that Bahamas holds $3 billion in Russian assets, which has placed them in a bit of a bind. On one hand, the country's firmly in the U.S.-U.K. diplomatic circle and opposes the Russian invasion, on the other hand it's "conflicted over how aggressively it can participate sanctions efforts without damaging its relatively small economy."

In all likelihood the Bahamans have made the calculus that previous sanctions were not a bridge too far, but this one would be. It's not difficult to follow the logic; holding Russia accountable for Ukraine reparations would necessitate a massive wealth transfer from Russia to Ukraine. And when that happens you hit up the banks, the Bahamas is one of those banks.

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  • Is $3b really all that much for their economy, relative to other assets stored there? Nov 16, 2022 at 16:25
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    If you think that Bahamas has not explained the vote - that shows ignorance and lack of knowledge. As CDJB has extensively quoted there was a reason given.
    – TomTom
    Nov 16, 2022 at 16:27
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    @JonathanReez It's $3bn against an $11bn GDP, which is a lot of money for them regardless of what other assets other people may have offshored to them. Nov 16, 2022 at 16:52
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    This answer should probably be deleted in light of CDJB's answer citing that The Bahamas has actually explained their vote - that it was an accident.
    – reirab
    Nov 17, 2022 at 21:47
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    This answer is a perfect example that one can always come with good explanations in retrospect.
    – sourcream
    Nov 20, 2022 at 13:20

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