Human rights campaigner Mary Francis has asserted that people have the wrong impression that human rights advocacy is about supporting criminals and giving them a ‘free ride’.
“That’s not who I am. I am all about the dignity of every human person, to make sure that their dignity is respected and that there is equality of treatment for all persons In Saint Lucia,” she declared.
Francis was speaking to reporters Tuesday on the occasion of World Human Rights Day.
She explained that human rights advocates lobby for the protection of human rights.
“It is comprehensive – more than just a question of the criminals and the police,” the outspoken Attorney at Law stated.
She told reporters that she chose the theme – ‘Protecting Human Rights as an interdependent, indivisible, interrelated system of Rights – The art of good governance’ in connection with Saint Lucia’s observance of World Human Rights Day.
“The duty has been placed on the state by the conventions that the government has signed,” the Coordinator of the National Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights noted.
Francis said the two most important conventions are the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
She observed that Saint Lucia has celebrated 40 years of independence and the constitution, since 1979, has enshrined the rights and freedoms of all persons in the country.
“So we have to see it as an integrated system and the duty is placed on the state to ensure that human rights are protected,” Francis told reporters.
However she noted that based on media reports, when it comes to the matter of law enforcement there is much more to be desired.
Francis said that to her great disappointment, after eight years the matter of police killings in 2011 has not been resolved.
She also pointed to the death in police custody on Saturday of Shem Sinaise, whom law enforcement officials disclosed had been found hanging from a window after being allowed to use a bathroom at the Laborie police station.
In addition Francis recalled that Michael Blades, who was recently released from police custody, has disappeared without a trace.
She asserted that there is a recklessness and laxness on the part of the police in performing their duty to protect the rights of individuals in their custody.
According to Francis, human rights is about changing behaviour, including that of public servants who are charged with carrying out the policies of government and changing attitudes that result in a breach of human rights.