Stand Up For Someone’s Rights
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.