U.S. Laments Lack Of Progress.
FOREIGN governments continue to pressure the St Lucia government to do something to counter recent alleged human rights violations in the country.
St Lucia is already suffering from the effects of punitive United States action over alleged extra judicial killings by the police and the European Union late last year issued a statement of its own.
This week, the U.S. issued another statement lamenting that the St Lucia government had made “no meaningful progress towards criminal prosecution in 10 months” following revelations last March of some of the contents of an investigation into the police killings undertaken by a team from CARICOM’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).
St Lucia is also under pressure from the British Government to withdraw diplomatic immunity from a Saudi Arabian millionaire, appointed by the Anthony government to the International Maritime Organization, who is facing a divorce action in the British courts.
The Americans have already sidelined St Lucian police officers from taking part in its training programmes as a result of the killings of civilians during an anti-crime campaign in 2010 and 2011.
The IMPACS report has produced one major casualty thus far: Commissioner of Police Vernon Francois, under whose command the anti crime campaign was conducted, being made to retire.
But there has been no further action since and questions have been raised about the reported content of the IMPACS report which has not been fully published. The report, however, called for action to be taken against policemen involved in extra judicial killings. The report also made some scathing criticism of the Police Force even accusing it of fabricating evidence in crime fighting.
But outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions Veronica Charles-Clarke has defended her office’s inaction on the report, claiming that her requests for additional manpower that would have allowed her to pursue the report had not been met by the government and there had been no evidence supplied to her in support of claims against the policemen cited for wrong doing in the report.
An EU delegation is in St Lucia to discuss movement on the IMPACS report with the government. Only last month, the EU issued a statement of its own on the matter. The team is expected to meet the media today.
But Tuesday’s statement from the U.S. Embassy in Barbados heaped more pressure on the government to bring the IMPACS matter to a conclusion.
The statement started by commending the government for its initial step in 2014 by inviting IMPACS to conduct the investigation. But it added: “ Unfortunately, progress on pursuing justice in these killings halted after the report’s issuance in March 2015. Despite the significance of the IMPACS report for human rights, national security concerns, and Saint Lucia’s international reputation, the Government of Saint Lucia has made no meaningful progress towards criminal prosecution in 10 months.
The Embassy of the United States of America to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, therefore, urges the Government of St. Lucia to ensure the rule of law is upheld. We are concerned that four years have passed since these allegations of human rights violations first surfaced and due process is yet to be served”.
Although it said the U.S. respected Saint Lucia’s separation of powers, the statement emphasized the entire government’s role in guaranteeing that each branch has the tools and resources to fulfil its commitments to the rule of law. It referred to as “disappointing” the Director of Public Prosecution’s announcement in November that her office was not provided sufficient resources or the report’s investigative files, thus precluding furthering criminal prosecution.
It added: “We encourage the Saint Lucian Government to activate the promised implementation oversight committee under the Prime Minister’s chairmanship. Such a committee could serve to ensure that the entire government is working effectively together to achieve due process.
“We applaud the Saint Lucian Government’s approval in September of a reformed ‘Use of Force’ policy that guides security forces to protect both national security and human rights. We praise the participation of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force in human rights training courses. However, these measures alone are not sufficient for Saint Lucia to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law”.
Encouraging the Government of Saint Lucia to take all available measures to guarantee the rule of law is upheld, the statement said the United States “stand(s) by our offer to assist Saint Lucia’s efforts to ensure due process in the framework of Saint Lucia’s criminal justice system. A clear demonstration of the Government of Saint Lucia’s commitment to the rule of law would benefit the people of Saint Lucia as well as Saint Lucia’s international standing as a trusted, democratic partner in economic and security cooperation”.