IMPACS THE BIG COPOUT!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Toni Ni­cholas

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.

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