Human Rights Advocate,Mary Francis, has called for the release from jail of a teenage mother and her newborn baby.
Francis told the Times that the matter should be a priority for newly appointed Attorney General, Stephen Julien.
“That child should be released now because she has a baby,” Francis, who is the Coordinator of the National Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights told the Times.
She said it was time for the government through the Attorney General’s Department to get on board speedily to address the situation and ensure that mother and child are released from the Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF).
“Whether or not she is in a special unit the fact is that their liberty has been taken away from them,” Francis said of the seventeen year old mother and her child.
She noted that the rights of the incarcerated teen’s mother have also been infringed because she has to travel to the BCF to see her granddaughter.
Admitting that she did not have all the facts, Francis told the Times that the teen was entitled to have legal representation.
Francis said aside from being a human rights issue, the matter raises other questions such as the dignity of the human person, poor parenting and the history of slavery which promotes the infliction of severe punishment.
“Above all you have to look at our human rights obligations in terms of the International Human Rights Conventions which we have signed, in this case the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” the Attorney at Law explained.
She asserted that as a result of signing the convention, local legislation must be in sync with it.
Mary Francis told the Times that according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,a person under eighteen is considered a child.
She stated that there was no reason why the seventeen year old should have been sent to the BCF since according to the convention, imprisonment is a last resort.
“The fact that she was pregnant it would seem to me when she was sentenced by a Magistrate – to me that is a serious matter,” Mary Francis declared.
She felt that the Magistrate should have taken into account Saint Lucia’s obligation under the convention of the rights of the child.