Human Rights advocate, Attorney at Law Mary Francis, has voiced suspicion over the announcement last week that the United States was easing some sanctions against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF), saying that the move is no cause for joy.
United States Ambassador to Barbados and the OECS, Linda S. Taglialatela, Friday announced that her country will resume full cooperation with and assistance to a number of local police units.
The US Department of State in 2013 withdrew training and material assistance to the RSLPF due to ‘credible allegations’ of gross human rights violations arising from alleged extra-judicial killings by security forces here.
The sanctions were imposed under the Leahy Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA), commonly referred to as the ‘Leahy Law’.
The allegations of extra judicial killings by some members of the RSLPF arose out of several fatal police shootings in 2010-2011 during an anti-crime offensive dubbed ‘Operation Restore Confidence’.
However Mary Francis, who is the Coordinator of the National Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights has questioned why as an independent country, Saint Lucia should depend solely on the United States for police training.
“It is the same training in the past that has militarised our police force – caused them to go shooting people without any accountability or any prosecution by the state,” she told St Lucia Times.
The outspoken Attorney at Law explained that her concern is that there should be prosecution of the police officers accused of the extra-judicial killings if the evidence points to that.
“The DPP has to come out and say something. He cannot just remain mum,” Francis stated.
“How long will it take? It is almost five years since he was appointed,” she recalled.
And Francis accused both major political parties in Saint Lucia of having played political football with the issue of the alleged extra-judicial killings by the police, because the parties have no genuine interest in getting to the bottom of the matter.
“Not just for the fact that those people lost their lives, but in terms of the integrity of the police force and the rule of law and the police, how they are doing law enforcement,” she stated.
Francis expressed the view that the US announcement of the easing of some sanctions against the RSLPF represented the end of the matter.
“I was taken by surprise to hear this announcement from the US Ambassador. I was a bit suspicious. Why now? So to me, it’s a playing up to the forces that be. I do not know what negotiations took place. I am not too surprised because American politics has its own corruption itself,” she told St Lucia Times.
“I am just wondering about the timing,” Francis stated.
But she refused to be drawn into commenting on whether the move by the US may have anything to do with upcoming general elections.
“I don’t know. I said it’s very timely – why now?” Francis said, without going into details.
Headline photo: Officer takes part in police operation (Stock image)