IMPACS THE BIG COPOUT!
Excerpts of the findings of an IMPACS report into the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF), as announced by the prime minister of Saint Lucia on Sunday took centre stage in the media all week long. The prime minister addressed the nation on Sunday March 8 describing as ‘extremely damning’ the report which followed the investigations into alleged extra-judicial killings and possible human rights violations.
In August of 2013, following the suspension of assistance to the RSLPF by the United States under the Leahy Law, prime minister Kenny Anthony had announced a probe into the police by a team of independent investigators from Jamaica. The investigators were part of the regional agency CARICOM IMPACS. The US had not only suspended assistance to the police force, citing human rights violations by local police as the reason, but had also cancelled the visas and in some cases denied visas to several police officers.
In February of this year, Dr. Anthony acknowledged being in receipt of the report which he said was being studied by his cabinet. It was later announced that on March 8 the prime minister would address the nation on the report’s findings.
The Saint Lucian leader began his national address last Sunday by saying, “In all the years that I have had the honour to serve you as prime minister, the issues on which I am about to address you have been among the most challenging and difficult.” Dr. Anthony then delved into the background of the matter, pointing to the period 2008 and 2010 when, in his words, “Saint Lucia experienced an unprecedented wave of homicides and violent crimes, particularly in the northern half of the island.” Operation Restore Confidence was then launched with a Special Task Force of police officers to undertake the operations. “Between 2010 and 2011, twelve persons met their deaths following encounters with officers of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force,” Anthony said. Further, these deaths attracted the attention of the United States of America, among others. In their Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Saint Lucia for 2011, the US State Department reported, among other things, that “the most serious human rights problems included reports of unlawful police killings.” It was on that basis that the aforementioned Leahy Law was applied by the US. “The stark reality we confront is that the United States will only lift those sanctions if in their judgment all necessary corrective steps have been taken,” the prime minister said on Sunday. It was for that reason, he went on to explain, that the IMPACS investigators were brought in.
“The team comprised eight investigators. Included among them were a ballistic expert, a legal advisor, a data entry specialist, a cybercrime analyst, and detective investigators,” Anthony disclosed.
He then went on divulge the following, as contained in the report: that ‘the blacklist or death lists’ referenced by the media, human rights organizations, victims’ families and citizens alike did exist; also, that “all the shootings reviewed were ‘Fake Encounters’ staged by the police to legitimize their actions”; further, that the weapons supposedly found on the scene of the alleged extra judicial killings were from sources other than the victims; that the investigators say that the weapons were “planted on the scene of the shootings” and that the investigators also advise that “a number of shootings were done by police officers and are listed on the murder statistics as being done by unknown assailants.”
“Revealingly, the report suggests that the crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians, government officials, business persons and police officers,” Anthony went on to say. “The report has also recommended that some senior police officers be held accountable for their actions or for their failure to take appropriate action when the alleged killings occurred and all police officers involved in the unlawful killings of citizens in respect of the files reviewed must be prosecuted,” he added.
Although 31 recomendations were made by the investigators, Anthony announced that the report would not become a public document at this time. Instead, it would be passed on to the office of the DPP. “The question whether anyone is to be prosecuted is solely for the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine after evaluating and assessing the probative value of the evidence placed before her,” he said.
Since Sunday’s address, the “findings” as disclosed by Kenny Anthony have made the regional and international news headlines, causing much unease within the RSLPF. There have also been much debate and discussion here over the report, on local talk shows, street corners and political circles.
Many persons who initially had a keen interest in the report have also been having their say including Human Rights advocate Mary Francis. “I am disappointed,” she told local journalists on Monday calling for full disclosure of the report.
Camron Laure, president of the Police Welfare Association, is calling for the “terms of reference” under which the investigators acted. Police Commissioner Vernon Francois told reporters, “I was not involved in anything remotely corrupt or unlawful” adding that his conscience was clear. Stephenson King, the prime minister at the time of Operation Restore Confidence, has told the media that his conscience too was clear saying that he never gave any order to shoot to kill to bring crime under control.
MORE on the IMPACS Report on pages 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.
A scene from “Operation Restore Confidence”
underway in the city of Castries in 2011.