Stand Up For Some­one’s Rights

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Mary Fran­cis

To­day is ob­served in­ter­na­tion­ally as Hu­man Rights Day in keep­ing with the United Na­tions Res­o­lu­tion adopted in 1950, invit­ing all States to ob­serve 10th of De­cem­ber each year as Hu­man Rights Day. This year’s theme is: “Stand up for some­one’s rights to­day."

The Na­tional Cen­tre For Le­gal Aid And Hu­man Rights Inc. (1998) I call on all per­sons in St. Lucia, to pause for a few min­utes and re­flect on the status of Hu­man Rights in St. Lucia and to ask the ques­tion “Whether past govern­ments have made the ad­vance­ment and pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights a pri­or­ity in the scheme of so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment?” Upon se­ri­ous reflection there are many is­sues:

• High unemployment rates among the youth

• Vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren

• A bro­ken down jus­tice sys­tem with an over­crowded re­mand prison pop­u­la­tion

• Ad­min­is­tra­tive in­jus­tice all of which neg­a­tively af­fect our right as hu­man be­ings to the full en­joy­ment of all hu­man rights in­clud­ing civil, po­lit­i­cal, so­cial, eco­nomic and cul­tural rights.

Fur­ther­more the Con­sti­tu­tion Chap­ter I guar­an­tees all per­sons in St. Lucia Fun­da­men­tal Rights and Free­doms and makes the Court the guardian of those rights. With­out ad­e­quate le­gal aid, which en­sures that ci­ti­zens ben­e­fit from equal ac­cess to jus­tice (equal­ity be­fore the Law and pro­tec­tion of the Law), cou­pled with a bro­ken and dys­func­tional Court Sys­tem, there is no guardian to pro­tect the peo­ple from abuse of their Fun­da­men­tal Rights and Free­doms, as guar­an­teed in the Con­sti­tu­tion. At this junc­ture the Of­fice of Pub­lic De­fender is re­quired to be es­tab­lished in St. Lucia.

On Hu­man Rights Day 10th De­cem­ber 2016, as Co­or­di­na­tor of the Na­tional Cen­tre For Le­gal Aid And Hu­man Rights Inc., a non gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tion, I call upon all St. Lu­cians to “Stand up for some­one’s rights,” start­ing in the home where do­mes­tic vi­o­lence oc­curs. Speak out, Stand up for the marginal­ized in our midst, the men­tally chal­lenged in­di­vid­u­als, the vic­tims of Po­lice abuse and the re­mand in­mates, for the fam­ily mem­bers of the 12 men killed dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Re­store Con­fi­dence, 2011. They need jus­tice now, there­fore stop shelv­ing the 2014 IMPACS Re­port, the fam­ily of Chakadan hanged in Po­lice Cus­tody needs jus­tice now.

Let’s all stand up, one for all and all for one, and call upon the Govern­ment to re­open the High Court Build­ing on Peynier Street.

Above all, as Co­or­di­na­tor of the Na­tional Cen­tre For Le­gal Aid And Hu­man Rights Inc. I call upon the Govern­ment to move ur­gently to es­tab­lish a Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion for St. Lucia so that our legislation can be re­viewed and be made com­pli­ant with the con­ven­tions which St. Lucia has rat­i­fied, so as to put the pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights cen­tre place in the devel­op­ment of St. Lucia and its peo­ple.

Look­ing be­yond the shores of St. Lucia: Hu­man Rights are uni­ver­sal and tran­scends state bound­aries cut­ting across race, na­tion­al­ity, reli­gion or sex and, as such, on Hu­man Rights Day we must also spare a thought for the peo­ple in Syria, Iraq and other war torn ar­eas of the world be­cause we share a com­mon hu­man­ity with them. In the words of the late Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin King Jr. “In­jus­tice any­where is a threat to jus­tice ev­ery­where,” so let’s all stand up for the rights of other op­pressed peo­ple, the world over.

It is, there­fore, in the midst of so much death of in­no­cent peo­ple as a re­sult of wars and con­flict, that the United Na­tions, 71 years after its in­au­gu­ra­tion and 68 years after the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights (U.N.H.R), has failed in its man­date to cre­ate peace and pro­tect hu­man rights; for ac­cord­ing to its Char­ter – one of the main pur­poses of the United Na­tions was “to reaf­firm faith in fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights.” In Article 56 the Char­ter lays an obli­ga­tion on the mem­ber states to co­op­er­ate with the or­ga­ni­za­tion in pro­mot­ing uni­ver­sal re­spect for hu­man rights and free­doms and uni­ver­sal ob­ser­vance of them. But as it stands presently, the co­op­er­a­tion given by mem­ber states is only half-hearted. But still, we the peo­ple of the world, live with hope that govern­ments ev­ery­where will pro­tect and ob­serve our in­her­ent hu­man rights.

Mary Fran­cis is an At­tor­ney-at-Law and Co­or­di­na­tor of the Na­tional Cen­tre For Le­gal Aid And Hu­man Rights Inc.

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