THE Saint Lucian government has given the European Union (EU) a timeframe within which it hopes to address the many concerns the EU has regarding the findings of the IMPACS report.
EU Ambassador, Mikael Barfod, told the media at a press conference held at Alliance Francaise last Thursday afternoon that he – along with French Ambassador to Saint Lucia, Eric de la Moussaye and British High Commissioner to Barbados, Victoria Dean – had met with Prime Minister Dr. Anthony earlier that day.
Barfod said the meeting with Dr. Anthony stemmed from the 28-member EU bloc’s concern with the slow pace of the Saint Lucian government’s promised follow-up regarding the alleged extra-judicial killings cited in the IMPACS report.
The EU previously notified the government of Saint Lucia about its concerns last December. However, Barfod explained that justice delayed is justice denied.
“We believe that there is an important issue that is dealt with by the IMPACS report,” Barfod said. “It is an issue that must be solved for the sake of the country, its authorities and – not least – the police. We do fully respect the Constitution, of course, but we believe it’s important that issues are dealt with.”
Barfod said that Thursday’s meeting was requested by the Prime Minister. After nearly a year since the Prime Minister addressed the nation on the findings of the IMPACS report and the process seemingly stalled, Barfod said, the trio “conveyed our strong message” to Dr. Anthony that “there has to be action”.
“The due process with regard to the allegations of extra-judicial killings by members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force is an indispensable condition for a system that respects the principle of rule of law,” Barfod told the media. “We fully respect that the Prime Minister has no direct control over the judicial branch and there is a separation of powers.
The EU Ambassador said that while Saint Lucia’s Constitution must be respected, the duty of the government is to ensure that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) gets the requisite resources to function properly.
Barfod said Dr. Anthony has pledged to have the posts of Director of Public Prosecutions, Deputy Director of Prosecutions and Police Commissioner filled as soon as possible. He added that despite the present IMPACS case attracting the EU’s attention, Saint Lucia’s justice system needs a major overhaul.
“There is a current backlog of cases (and) too many adjournments that lead to long delays. As we know, long delays can often lead to no justice. This affects, in fact, several concrete cases of the European Union Member States as well,” Barfod explained.
He added: “We’re afraid that this could lead to a sense of impunity that is dangerous for a society, especially for the future generation. In addition, it also affects tourism because travellers will need to be given advice that they can’t expect a proper functioning of the legal system in Saint Lucia. That is not good.”
The team also plans to meet with the Opposition on the matter, Barfod said.
Barfod said a follow-up meeting with Dr. Anthony should take place at the end on March or early April to determine whether any progress has been made. However, he said the team was “a bit more optimistic” that the matter will be dealt with after this week’s meeting.
Among the other commitments said to have been made by Dr. Anthony to the EU delegation was the new Director of Public Prosecutions will be provided with the requisite resources for that office and that the follow-up investigations to the IMPACS report should commence immediately following that appointment.
Earlier this month, the United States Embassy in Barbados issued a statement accusing the Saint Lucian government of “making no meaningful progress towards criminal prosecution in 10 months”. The Prime Minister has since responded, referring to the Embassy’s suggestion that this was due to the government’s inaction as “misplaced and unjustified”. (See statement on page 4)
Nevertheless, Barfod believes that like the EU, the United States also wants to see the IMPACS matter receive the serious attention it requires for the benefit of future relations with the island. He said the allegations made in the IMPACS report are “serious” and that “this case sticks out”, begging the question as to “whether the judicial system is functioning” in Saint Lucia.
“I believe that we all have the same goal: we want you to improve on the follow-up to the IMPACS report so that this case that we’re talking about will not be hanging like a dark cloud over Saint Lucia for much longer,” Barfod said.
When pressed, the EU Ambassador refrained from disclosing whether any sanctions would be applied to Saint Lucia should the follow-up meeting prove that commitments were not met. He said Saint Lucia and the European Union have enjoyed a special and close relationship, with the island benefitting from aid packages, including nearly $38 million for the new hospital’s construction.
“It is definitely our intention to help to bring Saint Lucia a step forward and not to worry at this moment about the negative consequences for our relations if nothing happens and if this situation gets out of hand,” Barfod explained.
Barfod said Saint Lucians need to know what exactly what happened during police crackdown, “Operation Restore Confidence” in which twelve men died as a result of police shootings because “the country is suffering from not know definitively what happened.” Above all else, he said, Saint Lucians have a right to an efficient justice system.
“Saint Lucians deserve a judicial system that works, that doesn’t have backlogs and can deal with all matters, no matter how serious they are or who is implicated. You need to know the truth about everything. That’s a democracy for you,” Barfod noted.
Meanwhile, Star publisher, Rick Wayne, who was also press at Thursday’s press conference, said that while he appreciated the EU’s strong interest in the IMPACS matter, he was “very disturbed” that the team took the Prime Minister’s word at face value.
Wayne contended that had the Prime Minister not declared that he had seen a “death list”, the European Union would not have been pursuing the matter in the first place. Nevertheless, he believes that the international interest in the matter will stir up enough publicity that keeps the matter active.
“It’ll bring more light on the horrible situation we’ve had in Saint Lucia,” Wayne said. “For years and years, people have been denied their human rights in this country.”