The United States (US) Government has said it will remove sanctions on the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RLPF) when the Government of Saint Lucia has shown “evidence” that the Force has corrected its human rights violations, according to Yolonda Kerney, the US Embassy Bridgetown’s public affairs officer and Embassy spokesperson.
Kerney made the remarks in response to questions submitted to the US Embassy in Barbados by St. Lucia News Online (SNO), inquiring about news last week that an officer involved in the Operation Restore Confidence (ORC) task force – which is accused of extra-judicial killings – was prevented from travelling to the US.
According to the senior law enforcement source, who requested anonymity, the police officer was scheduled to attend a family event in New York, but when he checked in with the airline on August 5, he was told he couldn’t travel based on instructions from the US Embassy.
The cop was advised to contact the US Embassy for more information, the source added.
“The officer noted that while at the airport he saw another police officer who was travelling to the US and he had no problems,” the source added.
SNO inquired from the US whether the officer in question was barred due to his involvement in ORC and whether the names of officers involved in ORC were submitted to the US government.
In response, Kerney said: “The U.S. Embassy does not comment on the interview process, issuance, status, or revocation of visas. As Prime Minister Anthony noted in his March 2015 address on IMPACS report, the Government of the United States of America did invoke provisions of the Leahy Law following the publication of its 2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in St. Lucia.”
Kerney continued: “In 2014, Prime Minister Anthony announced that the IMPACS team would investigate allegations of unlawful police killings as outlined in the 2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in St. Lucia. Upon review of the IMPACS report, Prime Minister Anthony characterized the findings of the report as “extremely damning,” and noted that the IMPACS investigators recommended that “All police officers involved in the unlawful killings of citizens in respect of the files reviewed must be prosecuted.”
The spokesperson added: “The Government of the United States of America will rescind Leahy Law sanctions when it has evidence that the Government of St. Lucia has taken all necessary corrective steps.”
The Leahy Law is a US human rights law – named after its main sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont – that prohibits the US Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity, according to Wikipedia.
SNO also contacted the Press Office of the RSLPF about the officer’s travel restrictions but was told that the Commissioner of Police will not comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, the police officer, who was denied entry last week, is the third known member of the RSLPF to have been denied entry to the US.
The visa of former Deputy Commissioner of Police Moses Charles, who was in charge of operations when the alleged extra judicial killings occurred, was revoked.
Commissioner of Police Vernon Francois, who is now being retired from the Force, was denied entry to the US to attend security meetings with officials of the United States, though his visa was not revoked.
Between 2010 and 2011, 12 persons were killed during encounters with officers of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. The alleged extra-judicial killings occurred during “Operation Restore Confidence” – an initiative then Prime Minister Stephenson King announced on May 30, 2010 in an address to the nation.
The police operation was in response to an unprecedented wave of homicides and violent crimes between 2008 and 2010, particularly in the northern half of the island.
However the shootings resulted in a backlash for St. Lucia. The United States (US), citing human rights concerns, took action against the St. Lucia police force and the government.
The US ceased all financial and technical assistance to the St. Lucia Coast Guard. In addition, the Government of St. Lucia was banned from purchasing ammunition from the US for its American-made weapons.
Members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force could no longer participate in any training programme sponsored or financed by the United States. Police officers were also denied participation in training activities in the Regional Security System (RSS), once the training programme was sponsored or financed by the United States.
Responding to the US sanctions, the government secured, through the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the services of a team of investigators from the Jamaican Constabulary Force to investigate all instances of alleged “extra judicial killings” by members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
The team comprised eight investigators including a ballistic expert, a legal advisor, a data entry specialist, a cyber-crime analyst, and detective investigators.
In a 27-minute address to the nation on March 8, 2015, Prime Minister Anthony released the main findings of the IMPACS investigation, confirming that the force worked from a “black list or death list” of persons deemed criminals and officers staged all shooting-death sites to legitimise their actions.
Prime Minister Anthony said the report of the investigators are “extremely damning” and “brings home the extreme gravity of this matter”. He said these findings relate not only to those officers who were involved in the operations, but members of the “high command of the police force” who may have been involved in “covering up these matters”.
Dr. Anthony explained: “The report confirms that the black list or death list referenced by the media, human rights organisations, victims, families and citizens alike did exist. More alarmingly, the investigators report that all the shootings reviewed were fake encounters staged by the police to legitimise their actions.”