It is of little value to make a statement to confirm what is already in the public domain without providing some indication of how the government plans to resolve the issues which confront us. I shall therefore try to be simple and as clear as possible so that all can understand the issues.” The preceding was how Saint Lucia’s prime minister, in a televised address to the nation on the evening of Sunday 20 August 2013, introduced what is arguably the biggest threat to our long-standing cherished relationships with the United States, the European Union and several other countries committed to human rights.
On the occasion the prime minister reminded the nation that “the current events have their origin in the twelve individuals who were shot and killed by police officers between 2010 and 2011.” He emphasized that the alleged police killings had occurred “during the tenure of the government of the United Workers Party” after its launching of “what was then described in the media and elsewhere as Operation Restore Confidence.”
In truth, the police had themselves named the cited operation. Just as they had named Operation Restore Peace in 1998, nearly a year after the election of Kenny Anthony’s Labour Party administration. On the evening of August 20, 2013, the prime minister revealed that in 2011, while his party was in opposition, he had seen “a hit list of targeted persons deemed to be criminals,” some of whom had died at the hands of the police. He kept to himself what had been his reaction.
The U.S. State Department, on the other hand, had featured the following item in its 2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Saint Lucia: “There were twelve potentially unlawful fatal shootings during the year, some reportedly committed by officers associated with an ad-hoc task force within the police department.”
The report referenced no sources. By the prime minister’s account, “the twelve potentially unlawful” deaths had led to U.S. sanctions against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, despite that six related inquests had returned verdicts of “death by lawful act.”
The prime minister said it was “reasonably clear [the U.S. State Department] does not have confidence in the outcome of the inquests to bring those responsible for the killings to justice,” otherwise they would not have ceased funding several activities related to the RSLPF.
“The presumption seems to be that the killings were unlawful,” the prime minister said. On the other hand he acknowledged it was “undeniable that it is in our vital interest to maintain close ties with the United States in security matters.” Moreover: “From its first few months in office” his government had “always understood the seriousness of the matter and its implications for the police and the former UWP political directorate.”
He said several police officers had been disallowed from proceeding on further training or participating in programs organized or funded by the U.S. and that “the decision has undoubtedly undermined the morale of the police and tarnished its reputation.”
Finally this: “It is in the interest of all concerned that the full facts of what occurred be disclosed, not only to satisfy the United States but, importantly, to clear those officers whose reputations are at risk. Saint Lucia must have confidence in those who are charged with law enforcement.”
As for the victims of the alleged gross violations of human rights, “they, too, need closure,” the prime minister said.
In consequence, the prime minister announced his decision to engage a group of CARICOM investigators who would be required to “evaluate all available evidence and determine whether or not these matters warrant further action.” In the meantime, he promised, his government would enact new legislation to accommodate his announced decision, “so as to ensure such investigations enjoy the full protection of the law and that their findings are lawfully transmitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
Nearly two years following his above quoted address, the prime minister returned to TV to update the nation on the IMPACS investigation. He said he now had a report that was “extremely damning,” important aspects of which he proceeded to reveal so as to underscore “the extreme gravity of this matter.” The findings related not only to those officers who were involved in Operation Restore Confidence, he said, but additionally to “members of the high command of the police force who may have been involved in covering up matters.” Moreover, the prime minister said the IMPACS investigators had confirmed “the black list or death lists referenced by the media, human rights organizations, victims’ families and citizens alike did exist.” Perhaps worse was that the investigation had referred to “faked encounters” and “guns planted by the police at crime scenes.”
The above and several other shocking disclosures were made by the prime minister, despite that he was well aware “our Constitution enshrines three separate arms of the state: the executive, legislative and judicial.” Indeed, he promised he would “not allow the executive which I lead to transgress the province of the other two arms.” He intended to “fully continue respecting that sacred separation.” However, none of that had prevented the prime minister (in private life a lawyer!) from disclosing vital details of the “extremely damning” report—and quite possibly jeopardizing follow-up legal action.
In all events the US. State Department and the 28-member-state EU were unimpressed when late last year the DPP announced under duress that a Sisyphean workload and an egregious lack of resources had prevented her from processing several long-standing cases, some of them as much related to human rights violations as the IMPACS report she had received from the prime minister only after he had published its content via TV and the Internet.
The DPP shook the nation to its core, shortly before she left on pre-retirement leave, with her public announcement that there was nothing in what the prime minister had passed on to her office that would stand up in court. As if in confirmation of the DPP’s shocking statements, the Minister for Justice admitted to RSL’s Shelton Daniel that evidence, files and other supportive evidence had [in direct conflict with the Police Complaints Act] been deliberately withheld from the DPP because of their “sensitive nature.”
It came as a surprise when the prime minister, following a press conference convened here by diplomats representing the EU, announced in January that he had hired a Washington law firm to negotiate some kind of settlement with the U.S. State Department. At their press conference in late December the diplomats had revealed to reporters the prime minister’s promise that by March 2016 the DPP’s office would be ready to prosecute those involved in the so-called “gross violations of human rights by the police, politicians, government officials and businessmen” fingered by the IMPACS investigators. To date there has been no new word about changes at the office of the DPP, neither from the government or the EU diplomats.
Meanwhile there is the IMPACS report that was supposed to be so classified that not even government ministers had perused its pages, save perhaps the justice minister. Imagine my shock, then, when I opened an unmarked envelope this week that had been anonymously delivered to the STAR for my attention. In disbelief I stared at what appeared to be the cover of the IMPACS report. Then there were the loose pages that accompanied what looked like a digital printout. The pages were numbered 86-89 and headed RECOMMENDATIONS, yes, in capitals.
I wondered: Is this for real? Was someone planning to take me for a ride? How do I go about authenticating what I held in my hands? Most importantly, what do I do? Pretend I never received the unmarked envelope?
I decided to publish some of what those alleged pages of the secret IMPACS report recommended to the government.
1) The Commissioner of Police is to take ultimate responsibility for the unlawful killings and must be made to account as to why these killings continued unabated. It is recommended that procedural steps be initiated to review his tenure with a view of removing him as Commissioner of Police.
8) All police officers involved in the unlawful killings of citizens in respect of the files reviewed must be prosecuted.
10) Steps should be taken to improve the investigative and storage capacity of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force with regard to the handling and storage of exhibits.
11) Steps must be taken to improve the Forensic Laboratory to enable it to address the storage issue and the appointment of a Ballistic Expert.
12) Steps must be taken to address the speed at which matters are prosecuted and to remove the six-month statutory limitation to file civil action in instances of wrongful deaths.
16) The state should (a) investigate allegations concerning past and recent violations of the right to life; (b) propose relevant measures to tackle them; and (c) work out a plan of action for the future to eradicate practices of extrajudicial executions.
In all, 31 recommendations were listed. Curiously, at least two were disclosed by the prime minister himself on the evening of March 8, 2015. So are the documents I received the real McCoy? If so, then is it possible there are full copies of the IMPACS report floating around?
A few minutes before I sat down to write this feature I took an “ID Unknown” call from a woman who refused to identify herself. All she wanted to know was whether I had received her “package.”
I said I had and she said: “Very good. Expect more.”
“When?” I asked.
And she said: “Wait and see!”
I am half hoping someone’s playing me. But I cannot shake the feeling the secrets of the classified IMPACS report are secret no more. It remains now for the government to say whether what I received this week is genuine, a shot in the dark or just another Rick Wayne lie.