A report by the Jamaican Constabulary Force into 12 killings by the St Lucia police between 2008 and 2010 found that all of them were fake encounters to facilitate executions, weapons were planted by cops and death lists were circulated in the force during the period.
The damning revelations were made last night in an address to the nation by St Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony. Following the police killings under his predecessor and the questions that had been raised about them, the United States imposed a series of punitive measures on St Lucia including the curtailing of training and it also pulled visas for some of those thought to be at the centre of the killings.
In a bid to end the stand-off with Washington, on August 30, 2014, Castries secured the services of a team of investigators from the Jamaican Constabulary Force to probe the alleged extra-judicial killings by the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. The team comprised a ballistic expert, a legal advisor, a data entry specialist, a cyber-crime analyst and detectives.
Since the receipt of the report, Anthony’s government had been under pressure to release it and last night he described the main findings but said the report would not be released. He also announced a raft of measures to address the police conduct in the killings.
Noting that the matter of pursuing criminal charges is the bailiwick of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Anthony said “I can report that the findings of the investigators are extremely damning”.
He stated: “The report confirms that “the blacklist or death lists” referenced by the media, human rights organizations, victim’s families and citizens alike did exist.
“More alarmingly, the investigators report that `all the shootings reviewed were ‘Fake Encounters’ staged by the Police to legitimize their actions.’
“Further, that the weapons supposedly found on the scene of the alleged `extra judicial killings’ were from sources other than the victims. The investigators say that the weapons were `planted on the scene of the shootings.’
“The investigators also advised that `a number of shootings were done by police officers and are listed on the murder statistic as being done by unknown assailants;’
“Revealingly, the report suggests that `the crime problem in Saint Lucia is facilitated by corrupt politicians/government officials, business persons and police officers.’
“Of serious concern too, is the fact that the investigators also reported that in the course of the investigation, some senior officers did not co-operate with them. They reported that the main server of the computers used by some members of the High Command of the Police Force was deliberately tampered with. In two instances, the operating systems of the computers were altered to place the supposed contents beyond `the timeline of [the] investigation’ or probe”, Anthony told the St Lucian people.
He added that the report had also recommended that some senior police officers be held accountable for their actions or for their failure to take appropriate action when the killings occurred.
“The investigators also concluded that what operated during the period under review `was an environment of impunity and permissiveness designed to achieve the desired results. Willful blindness existed in respect of the Commiss-ioner of Police and particular members of his leadership and management team.’
“The investigators have recommended that `All police officers involved in the unlawful killings of citizens in respect of the files reviewed must be prosecuted’, Anthony added.
On the way forward he said that there can be no question that the relationship with the United States is vital both to St Lucia’s security and to the security of the United States. “We cannot allow a situation where the chief custodian of our national security and other senior police officers in the High Command of the Police Force cannot travel to the United States for discussions on our shared security interests. Equally, it cannot be in the interest of our Police Force and I daresay, our country itself, that the skills of our officers cannot be improved because they are denied access to training once American sponsorship or funds are involved. More fundamentally, we cannot continue in a situation where we are viewed as a pariah State by our partners in the fight against crime and lawlessness”, Anthony stated.
He said St Lucia therefore needed to address the requirements of the US Leahy Law.
Therefore he said, the Government has decided that the training of police recruits will from now on include a module in Human Rights Law. All current police officers will be required to attend training to sensitize them to the Human Rights provisions of the Constitution.
Secondly, in order to boost the pool of Gazetted Officers, the Government, in consultation with the Police Force and its partners, will organize and conduct an accelerated training programme.
Additionally, the government will bolster the institutional capacity of the Police Force by increasing the Assistant Commis-sioner positions by one, upping the number of funded sergeant positions by five and the number of funded corporal positions by ten.
Provision will also be made in this year’s Estimates of Expenditure for the appointment of Special Prosecutors to aid in the prosecution of any cases should the Director of Prosecutions so decide.
Cabinet will also appoint a joint committee under Anthony’s chairmanship, to oversee the implementation of the report of the investigators. The Committee will include representatives of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and civilians.
Finally, he said, the substantive Commis-sioner of Police, Vernon Francois, who is currently on leave will continue on leave until his current period of leave expires.
Anthony also described the circumstances which had led to the killings.
He pointed out that during the period between 2008 and 2010, Saint Lucia experienced an unprecedented wave of murders and violent crimes, particularly in the northern half of the island.
He noted that on May 30th, 2010, in an address to the nation, former Prime Minister Stephenson King launched what became known as “Operation Restore Confidence”.
He said that the former Prime Minister warned criminals that “There will be no refuge, no stone will be left unturned and there will be no hiding place for anyone.”
King then announced the formation of a Special Task Force of Police Officers and a change in the command structure of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. The Commissioner of Police, Ausbert Regis was transferred, albeit unlawfully, Anthony said, and replaced by Assistant Commissioner of Police for Crime, Vernon Francois, initially in an acting capacity. The Task Force quickly became fully operational. It was placed under the direct command of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Moses Charles.
Anthony said that between 2010 and 2011, twelve persons died following encounters with officers of the Police Force.
These deaths, he noted, attracted the attention of the United States of America, among others. Following a US State Department Report, he noted that the US proceeded to apply to Saint Lucia what has come to be widely known as the “Leahy Law.”
Upon the application of its provisions, the United States ceased all financial and technical assistance to the Coast Guard. This meant that the Government of Saint Lucia was now solely responsible for the maintenance of its Coast Guard Fleet. It also meant St Lucia could not purchase ammunition from the United States for its American made weapons. Members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force could also no longer participate in any training programme sponsored or financed by the United States.
Further, the visa of the former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Charles was revoked. Further, though the visa of the Commissioner of Police, Vernon Francois, was not revoked he was nonetheless denied entry to the United States even to attend security meetings with officials of the United States.