It is an indisputable truth that the combined efforts of the 28-member European Union and the United States, on whom this nation has long depended for its security, a fact unforgettably underscored by the prime minister in national addresses delivered on 20 August 2013 and on 8 March 2015, have after four years failed to persuade two local administrations to bring to a judicial resolution the issue popularly referred to as IMPACS. In the cited first address Prime Minister Kenny Anthony finally confirmed the U.S. government’s suspension of all assistance to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, on grounds that it was suspected of gross human rights violations, by which the State Department referred to “twelve potentially unlawful fatal police shootings during the year [2010-2011], some reportedly committed by officers associated with an ad-hoc task force within the police department.”
The prime minister in his 2013 address further revealed that officials of the United States had imposed sanctions against the RSLPF “because they are bound by law enacted by the United States Congress.” He referred specifically to the Leahy Law, named after Senator Patrick Leahy, that forbids the U.S. from furnishing 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 gross violations of human rights.” Moreover, that the mentioned prohibition “shall not apply if the Secretary determines and reports that the government of such country is taking effective steps to bring responsible members of the security unit to justice.”
Additionally: “In the event funds are withheld from any unit, the secretary of State shall promptly inform the foreign government of the basis for such action and shall, to the maximum extent practicable, assist the foreign government in taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces to justice.”
During his televised address to the nation on 20 August 2013 the prime minister revealed that “the United States believes it has credible evidence that the officers of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force committed gross violations of human rights.” But then, he wryly reminded viewers, “those so-called responsible members would first have to be identified.” His government had already facilitated coroners’ inquests into most of the cited killings that resulted in verdicts of “death by lawful act.” But since the United States had nevertheless decided to impose sanctions on members of the police force, the prime minister concluded, “it is reasonably clear that it does not have confidence in the outcome of the inquests to bring those responsible for the killings to justice . . . The presumption seems to be that the killings were unlawful.”
The prime minister acknowledged that it was in Saint Lucia’s “vital interest to maintain close ties of cooperation with the United States in security matters.” His government, from its first few months in office, “had always understood the seriousness of the matter and its implications for the force and indeed for the former United Workers Party political directorate.” In consequence of all that had happened since the imposition of the U.S. sanctions, officers had turned against one another, the prime minister revealed. There had been much finger-pointing, accusations and counter accusations.
“The decision has undoubtedly undermined the morale of the police force and tarnished its reputation,” said the prime minister. “For example our officers cannot participate in any program of training in the Regional Security Services, once it is funded or organized by the United States. This led to considerable speculation among members of the units from other member states. This not a happy situation.”
He said his government had taken further steps to help bring resolution to “this unhappy episode.” He had request from CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security to identify three senior investigators from the region to investigate the so-call extra-judicial killings; they will be asked to evaluate all available evidence and determine whether these matters warrant further action. The government would also “enact new legislation to conduct investigations of the type proposed so as to ensure such investigations enjoy the full protection of the law and that the findings of any investigation are lawfully transmitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.” Again the prime minister reassured his audience he would work closely with the United States to resolve the issue, because Saint Lucia “values its close cooperation with the U.S. in security matters . . . Without this understanding and cooperation our borders can never be secure,” he said. He delivered a somewhat cryptic warning: “At times like these speculation is rife. But we must follow the rule of law as enshrined in our Constitution. There can be no other way. We now reap the harvest of rash decisions, particularly by policy makers anxious to gain quick resolutions.”
On the evening of 8 March 2015 the prime minister again delivered a televised address to the nation, this time to report receipt of the findings of the IMPACS investigation. He referred this time to Operation Restore Confidence, a police initiative aimed at bringing local crime under control, in particular rampant violence. He cited a related task force under “the direct command of the deputy commissioner of police.” He also named a senator who had “ministerial responsibility for the police,” and who had “briefed the public on changes effected by his government.” He mentioned some of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. government, among them visa revocations and the denial of entry to the United States to the police commissioner. “The stark reality we confront,” declared the prime minister, “is that the United States will only lift those sanctions if in their judgment all necessary corrective steps have been taken. In effect, if the sanctions are to be removed we must show proof that we are taking corrective steps to deal with the situation. He said the IMPACS team had not comprised just “three senior investigations from the region” (as stated two years earlier) after all. It comprised a team of eight Jamaicans, among them “a ballistic [sic] expert, a legal advisor, a data entry specialist, a cyber-crime analyst and detectives.” He said his purpose in reading to the world the findings of his investigation was “to bring home the extreme gravity of this matter,” although he recognized the job of “pursuing criminal charges is the preserve the Director of Prosecutions . . .” He was cognizant, too, of the fact our constitution enshrines “three legislative arms of the state: the Executive, Legislative and the Judicial” and he would “not allow the Executive that I lead to transgress the province of the two other arms.” He promised to “fully continue respecting that sacred separation.”
However, in his very next breath he pronounced the findings of his hired investigators “extremely damning,” then proceeded to state some of them “to bring home the extreme gravity of this matter” that related to not only officers involved in Operation Restore Confidence but also “members of the high command of the police force who may have been involved in covering up these matters.” The prime minister also asserted that “the report confirms the blacklist or death lists referenced by the media, human rights organizations, victims’ families and citizens did exist.” Also that his investigators had declared “all the shootings reviewed were fake encounters staged by the police to legitimize their actions.” So much for the separation of powers earlier acknowledged. Especially shocking was this line read out by the prime minister: “The crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians, government officials, business persons and police officers.” By his telling his investigators had reported on “an environment of impunity and permissiveness designed to achieve the desired results. Willful blindness existed in respect of the police commissioner and particular members of his leadership and management team.”
It would emerge that the Director of Public Prosecutions received a copy of the IMPACS report only after important parts of it had been read to the world by the nation’s prime minister. Months later, she declared the IMPACS report a mess of allegations, suggestions, recommendations but altogether without supportive evidence. The last observation was supported by both the justice minister who declared the evidence “too sensitive” for the DPP to handle, and the prime minister who said he could have told the DPP where to find the evidence: it was still with the IMPACS investigators in Jamaica. (As far as the public can tell, the planted guns and other evidence mentioned in the prime minister’s address remain in Jamaica!)
Two weeks ago lawyers representing the former Minister for Home Affairs issued defamation writs against the former prime minister and two local TV stations. Among his several claims: that the prime minister had by his public statements held him “responsible for causing members of the RSLPF to commit twelve extra-judicial killings during Operation Restore Confidence as alleged by the content of the IMPACS report; during his tenure as Minister for Home Affairs and National Security he abused the authority of his office as minister when he caused members of the RSLPF to commit twelve extra judicial killings under the guise of Operation Restore Confidence; that he corruptly colluded with other government officials, business persons and police officers and in so doing caused members to commit twelve extra judicial killings under the guise of Operation Restore Confidence.”
The claimant has insisted he was never fingered in any way by the IMPACS report, read in part by the former prime minister during a televised national address. Moreover that the then DPP had publicly stated her inability to prosecute those named by the IMPACS investigators for lack of useful evidence. Additionally coroners’ inquests had failed to criminalize or implicate the claimant in any manner whatsoever.
The TV stations have both issued public apologies as dictated by lawyers representing the former minister. It remains now to be seen whether the anticipated slander case will blow open the IMPACS issue that despite the efforts of both the U.S. and the EU has yet to receive due process. Also in question, whether the civil case can proceed before the potential criminal matter can be resolved. By reliable account, the former prime minister has promised vigorously to defend himself against the claims by the former Minister for Home Affairs!