IMPACS!

EU Del­e­ga­tion De­mands ‘ Ur­gent Res­o­lu­tion'

The Star (St. Lucia) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Wayne

Sev­eral years have gone by since I at­tended a lo­cal press con­fer­ence. I de­cided on Thurs­day to set aside the rea­sons, on the ba­sis that his­tory was about to be made: an EU del­e­ga­tion had grabbed the bull by the horns, so to speak, and of­fered to share with the me­dia de­tails of a dis­cus­sion with the prime min­is­ter on “ar­eas re­lated to se­cu­rity and jus­tice in Saint Lu­cia—in par­tic­u­lar the govern­ment’s fol­low-up to the pub­li­ca­tion of the IMPACS re­port.”

I noted with in­ter­est the mat­ter-of-fact way the del­e­ga­tion had re­ferred to the “pub­li­ca­tion” of a doc­u­ment that the govern­ment con­tin­ues to treat as clas­si­fied. Ten days af­ter a De­cem­ber 1, 2015 meet­ing in Bar­ba­dos the Del­e­ga­tion of the Euro­pean Union to the East­ern Caribbean Coun­tries had is­sued a com­mu­niqué that in­cluded the fol­low­ing: “Suc­cess­ful growth and de­vel­op­ment in­clude ef­fec­tive le­gal sys­tems and crim­i­nal jus­tice. In this con­text, the pub­lic state­ment on 8 March 2015 by the Hon­or­able Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony on the IMPACS re­port is very im­por­tant. Fol­low­ing this state­ment, due process must be fol­lowed. With­out due process there would be no ef­fec­tive crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “Ef­fec­tive ju­di­cial sys­tems are crit­i­cal for a coun­try’s Hu­man Rights record. With much achieved on other fronts, it would be re­gret­table if this is­sue would un­der­mine St. Lu­cia’s rep­u­ta­tion in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. It is in the full in­ter­est of all St. Lu­cians, and of EU vis­i­tors and in­vestors, to see this sit­u­a­tion move for­ward. The EU and its mem­ber states stand ready to sup­port the coun­try’s en­deav­ours in this crit­i­cal area, in­clud­ing with as­sis­tance un­der the 11th Euro­pean De­vel­op­ment Fund, which has 44 mil­lion EUR as­signed to pro­grammes fight­ing crime and se­cu­rity.”

This week the US Em­bassy in Bar­ba­dos is­sued a state­ment on “Saint Lu­cia IMPACS” that in­cluded the fol­low­ing: “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 . . . 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.

“We re­spect Saint Lu­cia’s sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers but em­pha­size the en­tire govern­ment’s role in guar­an­tee­ing that each branch has the tools and re­sources to ful­fill its com­mit­ments to the rule of law. That said, the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions made a dis­ap­point­ing an­nounce­ment in Novem­ber that her of­fice was not pro­vided suf­fi­cient re­sources or the re­port’s in­ves­tiga­tive files, thus pre­clud­ing fur­ther­ing crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.”

While the US Em­bassy ap­plauded the govern­ment’s ap­proval in Septem­ber of a re­formed Use of Force pol­icy that guides se­cu­rity forces to pro­tect both na­tional se­cu­rity and hu­man rights, it also com­plained that “th­ese mea­sures alone are not suf­fi­cient for Saint Lu­cia to demon­strate its com­mit­ment to the rule of law. 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.”

Yes, so how could I not have dragged my­self to Thurs­day’s prece­den­tial EU press con­fer­ence? Es­pe­cially since I imag­ined Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter would be in at­ten­dance. The meet­ing be­gan with the head of the EU Del­e­ga­tion based in Bar­ba­dos, Am­bas­sador Mikael Bar­fod wel­com­ing the full house on be­half of not only him­self but also in the names of French Am­bas­sador Eric de La Mous­saye and the Bri­tish High Com­mis­sioner Vic­to­ria Dean, as well as “on be­half of all the 28 mem­ber states of the Euro­pean Union.”

Bar­fod re­called the ear­lier cited EU meet­ing of 1 De­cem­ber 2015, “when my col­leagues and I dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion in Saint Lu­cia with re­spect to the al­leged ju­di­cial killings in 2011 and es­pe­cially the IMPACS re­port. We were very con­cerned with the lack of due process and de­cided to take this mat­ter up with the au­thor­i­ties in Saint Lu­cia. That is why the state­ment on be­half of the 28 mem­ber states was is­sued in De­cem­ber 2015.”

He de­scribed IMPACS “as an is­sue that must be re­solved for the sake of the coun­try, its au­thor­i­ties and not least, the po­lice.” He re­vealed that he and his fel­low am­bas­sadors were “in­vited” by the prime min­is­ter to visit Saint Lu­cia fol­low­ing the EU’s De­cem­ber 11 state­ment. Shortly be­fore meet­ing the press, said the am­bas­sador, he and his col­leagues had “con­veyed to the prime min­is­ter our own con­cerns that al­most over a year af­ter his ad­dress to the na­tion on 8 March 2015 there has been no ac­tion or due process with re­gard to the al­le­ga­tions of ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings by mem­bers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force.”

Echo­ing this week’s US Em­bassy com­mu­niqué Bar­fod un­der­scored the fact that his prob­lems not­with­stand­ing, the prime min­is­ter re­mained re­spon­si­ble for all mat­ters re­lat­ing to gov­er­nance.

“We are say­ing that even with­out this high pro­file case [IMPACS] the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem in Saint Lu­cia needs to be im­proved. There is a cur­rent back­log of cases and too many ad­journ­ments that have re­sulted in long de­lays, no jus­tice and a sense of im­punity that is dan­ger­ous to so­ci­ety. In ad­di­tion it also af­fects tourism, be­cause trav­ellers will need to be ad­vised about the le­gal sys­tem in Saint Lu­cia.”

The am­bas­sador was nev­er­the­less “a bit more op­ti­mistic” fol­low­ing the meet­ing with the prime min­is­ter. Bar­fod and his col­leagues had “learned from the prime min­is­ter that within a cou­ple of months we are likely to see a new DPP as well as a deputy. We also learned to­day that the process to ap­point a com­mis­sioner is on track and that is some­thing we are very happy to learn.”

Bar­fod had also been in­formed that “re­sources to sup­port the new DPP are there on de­mand.” The EU del­e­ga­tion ex­pects in­ves­ti­ga­tions based on the IMPACS re­port should start “im­me­di­ately af­ter the ap­point­ment [of a new DPP].

Bar­fod’s fi­nal word: “We would like to con­tinue to di­a­logue with the prime min­is­ter, so the three am­bas­sadors sit­ting here have agreed to meet again with him at the end of March to see the progress in this ex­tremely im­por­tant mat­ter.”

It was quite ob­vi­ous that English is not Am­bas­sador Bar­fod’s first lan­guage. That, added to the fact that he spoke with the care of a sea­soned diplo­mat, only made un­der­stand­ing fully all he said more dif­fi­cult. A na­tive of Den­mark, he holds de­grees in political sci­ence and eco­nom­ics, also in govern­ment. He has held his present po­si­tion since Oc­to­ber 2012.

The panel took sev­eral ques­tions from the press that drew re­veal­ing an­swers. More about Thurs­day’s his­toric press meet­ing next Satur­day. Oh, in case you’re won­der­ing, Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter was a noshow!

Am­bas­sador Mikael Bar­fod, Head of EU Del­e­ga­tion

A press con­fer­ence like no other was con­vened here on Thurs­day by (l-r) French Am­bas­sador Eric de La Mous­saye, the head of the EU Del­e­ga­tion

Mikael Bar­fod, and Bri­tish High Com­mis­sioner Vic­to­ria Dean.

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