Human rights activist, Mary Francis, said she is not surprised by Saint Lucia’s ranking in a recent research conducted by the Child Rights International Network (CRIN).
St Lucia has been ranked as 110th in the world on how effectively children can use the courts to defend their rights according to the new research released by CRIN.
“We should be concerned about the findings of the report. I do know that we have problems in Saint Lucia, especially with the broken justice system,” she told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) on Tuesday.
The outspoken lawyer said the justice system has been falling apart for years and she is convinced that it has reached a “grinding halt,” something she is deeply concerned about.
Francis said she has received reports of sexual offenses committed against children, both from the Human Services Department and the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force (RSLPF), and in most instances they contain heartbreaking stories.
“It is sometimes depressing to hear of the run around mothers of young girl children really experience in terms of ensuring that charges are brought against the perpetrators of sexual assault meted out to their children, “she remarked.
The human rights activist told SNO that the latest information she received from both units is that sexual offenses against children have increased, but the government seems to be unmoved by it.
“Yet still the Human Services Department remains understaffed and is not given the necessary resources to fulfill their mandate in terms of assisting in the protection of children,” she lamented.
The new report, ‘Rights, Remedies and Representation’, takes into account whether children can bring lawsuits when their rights are violated, the legal resources available to them, the practical considerations for taking legal action and whether international law on children’s rights is applied in national courts.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is not formally part of national law in Saint Lucia. Since ratification of the CRC, attempts have been made to incorporate its provisions into domestic law through amendments and new laws have been adopted to comply with the Convention.
Many laws are still contrary to the principles of the principles of the convention and it cannot be directly enforced in the courts. Despite this the CRC can be and has been cited for guidance by national and regional courts with jurisdiction over Saint Lucia.
Under the Civil Procedure Rules, children through their representatives, are entitled to bring civil cases in the courts to challenge violations of their rights and may also bring constitutional complaints or judicial review proceedings. The legal system is noted for being slow, leading to a backlog of cases and long stays in pre-trial detention.