The STAR confirmed on Thursday that rumours of another senior police officer from Saint Lucia being prevented from leaving the island to visit a United States territory was indeed true. Pancras Albert, who is the island’s deputy commissioner of police was prevented from boarding a LIAT flight bound for St. Croix, US Virgin Islands on Wednesday.
So far there has been no comment on the matter from the island’s prime minister Kenny Anthony, justice minister Philip LaCorbinere or the police commissioner, who himself suffered a similar fate last year.
In 2013 Vernon Francois was not permitted to board a flight to the United States to participate in a US organized and financed training programme.
After incessant calls from the media and the opposition to clear the air, prime minister Kenny Anthony in an address in August of 2013, told the nation that the issue had to do with a suspension by the US of all assistance to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
Prior to the statement, The STAR had for weeks been pointing out that aid to the RSLPF had indeed been withdrawn – a fact that was initially denied by the police chief and dismissed by the justice minister.
During his 17 minute address to the nation the PM confirmed that Saint Lucia is currently prohibited by the terms of what is commonly referred to as the “Leahy Law” from receiving security-related assistance from the US.
The Leahy Law, named after its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, is a US human rights law that prohibits assistance to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.
The prime minister went on to say that the prohibition under the Leahy Law was grounded in the killing of 12 individuals by security forces in Saint Lucia in 2010 and 2011, which he pointed out took place under the previous United Workers Party (UWP) administration.
These killings, he said, attracted the attention of the US, which in the State Department’s 2011 human rights report on St Lucia described the 12 fatal police shootings as potentially unlawful, with some reportedly committed by officers associated with an ad hoc task force within the police department.
Anthony went on to say that the Leahy Law prohibition shall not apply if the US secretary of state determines and reports that the government of such country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces to justice.
The prime minister then went on to outline the steps being taken by the government to satisfy the US that those responsible are brought to justice, among them the expediting of inquests into the deaths of the 12 individuals.
In addition, Saint Lucia has requested US assistance in conducting polygraph or “lie detector” tests in relation to senior police officers and at the end of last year announced a body to investigate matters of wrongdoing within the police force.
Whether there has been any review by the US as to the steps taken by Saint Lucia is unknown at this time.
However Wednesday’s denial of entry into the US of another Saint Lucian police officer points to the the fact that the United States is sticking to its guns for the time being, and continuing to penalize the RSLPF.
An unusually large number of police officers and correctional officers were denied visitor visas to the United States last year, the STAR has also been informed.