by Mary Francis
On 10th December 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a pivotal document, which in Article (1) affirmed that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity, thereby underscoring adherence to the principles of equality and nondiscrimination by all member States of the United Nations.
“ALL HUMAN, ALL EQUAL” is this year’s chosen theme by the United Nations, in observance of the Human Rights Day 2021. This day is being observed in a world still ravaged by the deadly COVID 19 pandemic and other variants, resulting in erosion by human rights on a massive scale, with mandatory vaccines and loss of employment, coercive state of emergencies and other confinement measures deployed by Governments the world over.
Here in St. Lucia the perennial social and economic deprivation felt by many marginalized citizens have been exacerbated, thus exposing the systemic deficiencies in our society. Now more than ever is the time to build a new and better St. Lucia by erasing these systemic deficiencies. How can this be done?
This requires Government and Civil Society working together in partnership, in
implementing people centered programmes, so as to ensure that the protection of human rights is the cornerstone of a new St. Lucia, where there is equal access to all services in particular Health, Education, and Justice, for all citizens.
“ALL HUMAN, ALL EQUAL,” is far from a reality in St. Lucia. Our Institutions have been adversely affected even more so by the Covid pandemic. For example, the Courts are not structured to attain physical distancing, resulting in a high level of Pre Trial detainees at the Bordelais Correctional Facility. These detainees are human beings and their plight must be recognized by the Government.
In addition domestic violence and sexual assault of women and young girls continues
Repeating the United Nations Theme “ALL HUMAN, ALL EQUAL” calls for resolute action by the Government whose heavy Public Service wage bill militates against achieving this goal, as the gap between the haves and haves not grows wider.
Perhaps a reduction in this wage bill can bring the Government close to attaining the reality of Equality for all.
The greatest lesson in this time of grave deprivation is the necessity for the establishment by Government of a National Human Rights Commission fully funded, with sufficient human resources to ensure all human rights civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights are enjoyed by all St. Lucians, equally and without discrimination.
A National Human Rights Commission funded by Government to provide legal representation as part of its mandate, will remove the conflict presently existing, whereby the State which is duty bound to protect the citizens rights, is quite often in breach of the Civil rights of poor citizens, who then find themselves in the unjust situation where the State is staunchly defended by the Attorney General, against the poor citizens, yet this is the same State which is duty bound to protect the fundamental human rights of its citizens.This injustice must cease to exist.
St. Lucia still awaits the resolution of the 2011 police killings of the Vieux Fort “5.”
The State must account for the breach to the right to life. What of the case of the
Police shooting of young 17 year old Arnold?
On this Human Rights day a call is made to all of the St. Lucians to stand up for Human Rights so as to create a better St. Lucia as we look to recover from the intense social and economic deprivation brought on by the Covid pandemic.
As Coordinator of the National Centre For Legal Aid And Human Rights Inc. I call
on Government once again to establish a National Human Rights Commission. Too
many are lingering in unjust conditions, victims of abuse of State power. A buffer is required between the citizen and the State so that the ideal “ALL HUMAN, ALL EQUAL” becomes a lived reality.
Let us all make this 10 th December 2021, a day to reflect on Human Rights as we
work together in partnership with Government to build a just society.