Human rights activist and Attorney-at-Law Mary Francis is calling for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission to safeguard the rights to which person is inherently entitled to.
Francis told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) in an interview that the commission should not be founded merely to react to human rights violations, but to handle these cases more efficiently and effectively.
“There must be speedy remedy and accountability when the use of force is found to be unlawful. We have to do things in a manner to improve justice for persons,” she asserted.
Francis told SNO that she does not regard the state as a “just state” in terms of providing justice when its agents carry out infractions on civilians, emphasizing the need for the independent body.
While the outspoken attorney said she welcomes the “Use of Force Policy” which was recently approved by Cabinet, Francis said she hopes it is something of an improvement of what really exist.
As it currently obtains, the Police Act makes reference to the use of force as the last resort, but Francis claims that in 90 percent of these cases, the police resorted to killing or maiming people.
“My concern is while it is all good and well to have an improved ‘Use of Force Policy’, I hope that it contains provisions for accountability and speedy resolution when such force is unlawful,” she added.
Francis pointed a recent case involving a young man who was allegedly shot by police in January 2014, where the circumstances clearly suggest that it was the wrong person and there was use of force.
But she said the matter has been sitting at the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) office for several months and nothing new has come out of that case, including the recent IMPACS report.
Francis also raised concerns over whether the police will adhere to the new policy. “Will it sink into the minds of those individuals?” she questioned.
“Yes, they are human beings and sometimes they might be fearful in the execution of their duties when they come under fire from civilians, but they must be careful as how they respond” she explained.
The ‘Use of Force Policy’ for law enforcement officers was approved by Cabinet on September 21, 2015.
The policy is designed to provide parameters and guidance to law enforcement officers in determining the appropriate use of force when discharging their duties.
It reinforces the responsibility of law enforcement officers to adhere to proper practices and behavior.
The policy recognizes that law enforcement officers must have the highest regard for the constitutional rights and human rights of all persons.
Today is designated International Human Rights Day by the United Nations (UN).