PM seeks to clar­ify al­ways clear U.S. po­si­tion on “gross hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions!”

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Last Fri­day evening Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter de­liv­ered on TV what he re­ferred to as a “clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the U.S. po­si­tion on the mat­ter of the pros­e­cu­tion of those al­leged to have en­gaged in ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings dur­ing the ten­ure of the for­mer United Work­ers Party be­tween 2010 and 2011.” On the premise it would “help the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia and the of­fi­cers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force bet­ter un­der­stand the po­si­tion of the United States in this dif­fi­cult and com­plex mat­ter,” the prime min­is­ter wel­comed the “clar­i­fi­ca­tion” of what, pre­sum­ably, had ear­lier been con­fus­ing to the pop­u­lace and their only pro­tec­tors of lives and prop­erty.

Com­ing as it did sev­eral hours af­ter last Thurs­day’s prece­den­tial press con­fer­ence, dur­ing which three re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the EU’s twenty-eight mem­ber states had re­peated their de­mand for due process for the sus­pects un­cov­ered by the IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I was es­pe­cially cu­ri­ous to learn the de­tails of the re­ported clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the U.S. govern­ment’s stated po­si­tion on the “gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights” al­legedly com­mit­ted by mem­bers of the RSLPF.

The lat­est com­mu­niqué from the U.S. Em­bassy in Bar­ba­dos, is­sued on 12 Jan­uary 2016—just two days be­fore the EU del­e­ga­tion by in­vi­ta­tion met pri­vately with Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter—com­mended the govern­ment’s “ini­tial step in 2014 by invit­ing IMPACS to con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions that mem­bers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force com­mit­ted ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings from 2010 to 2011.”

On the other hand, the Em­bassy had noted with con­cern that since the is­suance of the IMPACS re­port in March 2015 “progress on pur­su­ing jus­tice in th­ese killings” [of “twelve cit­i­zens deemed to be crim­i­nals,” ac­cord­ing to the prime min­is­ter] had halted. More­over, “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 to­ward crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion in ten months.”

While the U.S. Em­bassy con­firmed its re­spect for Saint Lu­cia’s “sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers” it nev­er­the­less em­pha­sized “the en­tire govern­ment’s role in guar­an­tee­ing that each branch has the tools and re­sources to ful­fill its com­mit­ments to the rule of law.” The Em­bassy de­scribed as “dis­ap­point­ing news” the DPP’s re­cent pub­lic state­ment that her of­fice had not been pro­vided with the re­port’s in­ves­tiga­tive files and suf­fi­cient re­sources, “thus pre­clud­ing fur­ther crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.” [Writer’s em­pha­sis]

Also of par­tic­u­lar con­cern to the U.S. Em­bassy was that “four years have passed since th­ese vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights first sur­faced and due process is yet to be served.”

The U.S. Em­bassy had re­peated an ear­lier plea— echoed by the EU—for ac­tion on the part of the Kenny An­thony govern­ment: “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.” Ad­di­tion­ally, that the Em­bassy re­peated its will­ing­ness “to as­sist Saint Lu­cia’s ef­forts to en­sure due process in the frame­work of Saint Lu­cia’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.” Sim­i­lar as­sis­tance had more than once been of­fered by the EU that has set aside for such pur­pose some 44 mil­lion EUR.

It is worth re­call­ing that as far back as 2013 the prime min­is­ter had in­formed the na­tion of the U.S. State Depart­ment’s hard po­si­tion on the mat­ter of those “gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights” al­legedly com­mit­ted by the Saint Lu­cia po­lice. In a tele­vised ad­dress on Au­gust 13, the prime min­is­ter had stated: “When the pro­vi­sions [of the Leahy Law] are scru­ti­nized against the ac­tions of the United States it be­comes clear that the United States be­lieves it has cred­i­ble ev­i­dence that the of­fi­cers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force com­mit­ted gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights.”

Has the U.S. changed its po­si­tion since 2013?

Ref­er­enc­ing the re­lated in­quests that had fol­lowed the fa­tal shoot­ing of twelve cit­i­zens, the prime min­is­ter added: “Since the United States has de­cided to im­pose sanc­tions on mem­bers of the Royal Saint Lu­cia Po­lice Force, then it is rea­son­ably clear that it does not have con­fi­dence in the out­come of the in­quests to bring those re­spon­si­ble for those killings to jus­tice . . . Clearly, too, the pre­sump­tion seems to be that the killings were un­law­ful [de­spite that the lo­cal coro­ner’s court had de­clared the ex­act op­po­site to be true!].” [My em­pha­sis]

Has the U.S. re­con­sid­ered this po­si­tion? Has it lifted any of the sanc­tions? Has the U.S. de­vel­oped new con­fi­dence in our jus­tice sys­tem? Has the U.S. pre­sump­tion in­di­cated by the prime min­is­ter un­der­gone a sea change?

Fi­nally the prime min­is­ter as­sured the na­tion that it

was “in the in­ter­est of all con­cerned that the full facts of what oc­curred be dis­closed . . .”

Af­ter that, not a re­lated word from the prime min­is­ter— un­til two years later when he re­turned to the air­waves to share with the na­tion that his in­ves­ti­ga­tors had de­liv­ered to him an “ex­tremely damn­ing” re­port con­ceiv­ably con­tain­ing “the full facts.” Be­fore pass­ing on the re­port to the DPP, how­ever, the prime min­is­ter an­nounced dur­ing his tele­vised ad­dress that his in­ves­ti­ga­tors had con­firmed the ex­is­tence of a “death list” that was widely bruited about, and which he had seen in 2011 while cam­paign­ing in op­po­si­tion; that the then act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner had turned a blind eye to al­leged “gross vi­o­la­tions.” Per­haps even more shock­ing was the prime min­is­ter’s TV an­nounce­ment that his cho­sen in­ves­ti­ga­tors had con­firmed the im­pli­ca­tion of govern­ment of­fi­cials and politi­cians as well as busi­ness peo­ple in Saint Lu­cia.

It has emerged that EU and U.S. Em­bassy per­son­nel had mon­i­tored the min­is­ter’s 8 March 2015 ad­dress and what they heard on the oc­ca­sion had moved them to de­mand with in­creas­ing im­pa­tience due process of jus­tice for all con­cerned.

So now, let us re­turn to the prime min­is­ter’s state­ment of last Fri­day. Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to me is that he had said not a word, not a word, not a word about his pri­vate meet­ing a day ear­lier with the EU of­fi­cials. For that mat­ter, al­though he promised de­tails of the clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the U.S. po­si­tion, the clos­est he came to de­liv­er­ing was when he ac­knowl­edged “the U.S. Em­bassy has quite rightly noted there has been no mean­ing­ful progress to­wards a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion in the last ten months of those who are al­leged to have com­mit­ted ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings,” and that this was “due to in­ac­tion on the part of the prime min­is­ter.”

The sug­ges­tion, by the prime min­is­ter’s own de­fen­sive mea­sure was “mis­placed and un­jus­ti­fied.” On the con­trary, “the ex­ec­u­tive’s role in this mat­ter was ful­filled upon pre­sen­ta­tion of the CARI­COM Im­ple­men­ta­tion Agency for Crime and Se­cu­rity Re­port to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions ten months ago, in March 2015.”

There is more to the im­me­di­ately above than im­me­di­ately meets the un­jaun­diced eye. In the first place, the U.S. State Depart­ment, that by the prime min­is­ter’s own ac­count had en­tered the pic­ture fol­low­ing “twelve po­ten­tially un­law­ful fa­tal po­lice shoot­ings, some re­port­edly com­mit­ted by of­fi­cers as­so­ci­ated with an ad hoc task force within the po­lice depart­ment,” has al­ways in­sisted on a proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ci­dent, fol­lowed by ju­di­cial pros­e­cu­tion.

So in­sis­tent was the State Depart­ment that when it ap­peared to them, three years fol­low­ing the sus­pect shoot­ings, that the govern­ment was no longer in­ter­ested in pur­su­ing this is­sue that had been a hot topic dur­ing its 2011 elec­tion cam­paign they had re­sorted to sanc­tions un­der the Leahy Law: visa cancellations, sus­pen­sion of funds to the po­lice, de­nial of train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in­ter alia.

Then there is this other un­de­ni­able fact: soon af­ter the prime min­is­ter’s tele­vised read­ing of the os­ten­si­bly clas­si­fied IMPACS re­port, I had re­vealed via th­ese col­umns my sus­pi­cion that we had heard the last of the mat­ter, now that it had been sent to the no­to­ri­ously in­ef­fi­cient DPP’s of­fice for burial. It was never a se­cret that this most im­por­tant govern­ment depart­ment has for years been de­nied ad­e­quate re­sources for prop­erly car­ry­ing out its func­tion of ad­vis­ing the po­lice on crim­i­nal mat­ters. And I mean, de­nied by suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions!

In his own de­fense the prime min­is­ter re­minded his TV au­di­ence last Fri­day evening that the DPP had “her­self pub­licly stated she never read the re­port un­til a full six months fol­low­ing her re­ceipt of it.” Alas, con­trary to what some lawyers seem to be­lieve, half a truth is not nearly a fact. The ir­re­duc­ible truth is that the DPP had fur­nished the press with the rea­sons she had been un­able to pay ear­lier at­ten­tion to the IMPACS re­port, among them that there were close to 200 other mat­ters that re­quired her per­sonal at­ten­tion, some of them dat­ing back sev­eral years. Be­sides, she had been given no rea­son to con­sider the re­port from the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice par­tic­u­larly ur­gent. In any event, when fi­nally she had some time dur­ing her va­ca­tion to study the re­port it had turned out to be loaded with as­sump­tions, al­le­ga­tions of the worst kind, sum­maries, and most dis­turb­ing ac­cu­sa­tions—but with no ev­i­den­tiary sup­port.

The prime min­is­ter also sug­gested the DPP, be­fore she set out on pre-re­tire­ment leave in De­cem­ber 2015, “never re­quested the govern­ment of Saint Lu­cia fa­cil­i­tate her in­ter­view­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tors whether in Saint Lu­cia or Ja­maica.” More im­por­tant is that the Po­lice Com­plaints (Amend­ment) Act, un­der which the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted, states at Sec­tion 18 (7): “Where in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion au­tho­rized by the Min­is­ter it ap­pears to the in­ves­ti­ga­tor or lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor that there is prima fa­cie ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal con­duct, he or she shall trans­mit to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions all ev­i­dence, state­ments and other rel­e­vant ma­te­ri­als aris­ing from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” [My em­pha­sis]

The prime min­is­ter also in­formed his au­di­ence at home and abroad (doubt­less there were among them State Depart­ment and EU per­son­nel, not to men­tion hu­man rights ac­tivists) that the Min­is­ter for Na­tional Se­cu­rity had “re­sponded promptly and fully, de­bunk­ing the DPP’s as­ser­tions.” The greater truth was that the fol­low­ing had been the min­is­ter’s re­sponse while be­ing in­ter­viewed by RSL’s Shel­ton Daniel:

“She [the DPP] has in­di­cated that the re­port con­tains cer­tain ma­te­rial but that the im­por­tant ba­sis for that ma­te­rial—the wit­ness state­ments and other ev­i­den­tiary mat­ters—are not con­tained in that re­port. Well, it could not be con­tained in that re­port. It would be highly im­proper and prej­u­di­cial to have any such mat­ters con­tained in a re­port of this kind . . . It is not the usual type of sit­u­a­tion where a par­tic­u­lar ci­ti­zen comes for­ward and makes a re­port to the com­plaints au­thor­ity. When a re­port of this kind is given, it can­not in­clude those state­ments be­cause this is a doc­u­ment that could very eas­ily have to go to the pub­lic in its en­tirety and per­haps par­tially. But ei­ther way, it is im­proper to have such ma­te­rial in a doc­u­ment. I will also say such in­for­ma­tion in a doc­u­ment would also prej­u­dice the en­tire mat­ter be­cause there is some­thing called a chain of cus­tody . . .” There’s a whole lot more, all of it gib­ber­ish.

Never mind the prime min­is­ter’s state­ment on the evening of 8 March 2015 (in re­la­tion to the same re­port ref­er­enced by the Min­is­ter for Na­tional Se­cu­rity) that de­spite “the ex­treme grav­ity of this mat­ter . . . the job of pur­su­ing crim­i­nal charges is the pre­serve of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions, and it is she who will pro­nounce on the same once her ac­tions are con­sis­tent with the Con­sti­tu­tion,” yes, de­spite all of that, the govern­ment had cho­sen to with­hold the ev­i­dence with­out which she could not carry out “the job of pur­su­ing crim­i­nal charges”—ac­cord­ing to the prime min­is­ter him­self, “the pre­serve of the DPP!”

The prime min­is­ter, in his state­ment last Fri­day, seemed to agree with his Min­is­ter for Na­tional Se­cu­rity that if the DPP had no ev­i­dence sup­port­ive of the re­port be­fore her she should have imag­ined the ev­i­dence was some­where else and set out to hunt it down. Con­sider this state­ment taken from the ear­lier cited Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter’s in­ter­view with Shel­ton Daniel: “You have a look at the re­port and if in your con­sid­ered view as DPP it raises pre­lim­i­nary con­cerns in your own mind that war­rant fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion, you are duty-bound to li­aise and be in touch with the au­thor­i­ties that would en­able you to process this mat­ter in a proper man­ner.”

With re­gard to the im­me­di­ately above, suf­fice it to say thank good­ness our Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter is not our Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions. But to re­turn yet again to the prime min­is­ter’s last ad­dress. “The is­sue about pros­e­cut­ing those who may have com­mit­ted al­leged crim­i­nal of­fenses has never been about re­sources.” How to ex­plain, then, this ear­lier pub­lic state­ment that with­out as­sis­tance, fi­nan­cial and oth­er­wise, the proper polic­ing of our bor­ders against drug and hu­man traf­fick­ing, and the main­te­nance of our coast guard fleet would be al­most im­pos­si­ble?

In­deed if money has never been a prob­lem for the main­te­nance of law and or­der in our coun­try, then why are we back-bend­ing pre­car­i­ously to the de­mands of the Leahy Law? Why the un­der­taken “cor­rec­tive steps” de­signed to re­turn us to the State Depart­ment’s good books?

To quote di­rectly from the prime min­is­ter’s March 2015 ad­dress: “The stark re­al­ity we con­front is that the United States will only lift those sanc­tions if in their judg­ment all cor­rec­tive steps have been taken . . . If the sanc­tions are to be re­moved, we must show proof we are tak­ing cor­rec­tive steps to deal with the sit­u­a­tion.”

What has al­ways been abun­dantly clear is that as far as the United States and the EU are con­cerned, “cor­rec­tive steps” had to in­volve the lay­ing of charges against those sus­pected of hav­ing com­mit­ted the par­tic­u­lar “gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights” and march­ing them be­fore a court, to be judged ac­cord­ing to the laws of Saint Lu­cia.

More­over, the prime min­is­ter’s hol­low com­plaints not­with­stand­ing, both the United States and the EU con­tinue to in­sist on due process for those fin­gered by the prime min­is­ter’s IMPACS in­ves­ti­ga­tors. As in­deed they have in­sisted from the out­set. That much as never re­quired clar­i­fi­ca­tion, whether or not wel­comed by Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter!

As for the prime min­is­ter’s of­fer of a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor that he claims the DPP turned down: Of what use would be a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor if the ev­i­dence stip­u­lated un­der the Com­plaints Act was—as the jus­tice min­is­ter has con­firmed—never fur­nished to the DPP? How was she to make a de­ci­sion whether or not to pros­e­cute? I am here re­minded, by the way, that at her last press con­fer­ence the DPP told re­porters she had re­quested a deputy DPP and two se­nior coun­sels to deal with other press­ing mat­ters while she fo­cused on the IMPACS re­port. Her re­quest was ev­i­dently ig­nored!

Left to right: French Am­bas­sador Eric de La Mous­saye, EU del­e­ga­tion head Mikael Bar­ford

and Bri­tish High Com­mis­sioner Vic­to­ria Dean.

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