In December of 2014 Saint Lucia’s prime minister reportedly dismissed a UK government request to scrap the death penalty here as a precondition for British assistance in the Oliver “Ollie” Gobat murder case. Ollie, murdered two years ago at Cap Estate, had lived and worked in Saint Lucia for several years. He was also a citizen of Great Britain.
For his part, the National Security Minister Philip La Corbiniere said, “Government is not ready to consider abolishing capital punishment.” He added that he would not be swayed by the UK or the European Union on this matter.
It should be noted that while capital punishment remains on the statute books, the last hanging on the island took place in 1995.
The island’s well-known human rights advocate attorney, Mary Francis, said the time had come to reconsider the national position on the death penalty. “In Saint Lucia we have a constitution that guarantees fundamental human rights and freedoms but that’s only on paper,” she said. “We have a court system which is not functional; we don’t have properly funded government legal aid.”
Nearly a year later, a source tells the STAR that government is rethinking its position on the death penalty and is in discussions with its British counterpart. This, our source says, is happening at a time when there seems to be no resolution to the IMPACS-related problem between the US and Saint Lucia. The United States withdrew all aid to the RSLPF two years ago, following alleged “gross human rights violations” involving the police.
At a press conference two weeks ago, acting police commissioner Errol Alexander confirmed “investigations into Gobat’s murder are on-going.” He said, “The lead person in the homicide investigation in Saint Lucia recently visited the United Kingdom to hold discussions with law enforcement officials there.”
The local official reportedly met with the head of the Surrey Police and a team of investigators to discuss the case in greater detail and to exchange information that could help advance the probe. Alexander made it clear, nevertheless, that to date the local police have received no assistance from the UK authorities.
With the help of Surrey MP Dominic Raab, England’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been petitioned to approve funding for officers from Surrey Police to be sent to Saint Lucia. However, the issue of the death penalty remains a major hindrance.
With the abolition of the death penalty in Suriname recently, there has been mounting pressure on Caribbean governments to follow suit. Last month the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) that still have the death penalty to abolish it or impose a moratorium on its application as a first step toward abolition. Saint Lucia is a member of the OAS.