Royal St Lucia Police Force
By Caribbean News Now contributor
WASHINGTON, USA — The US State Department has now confirmed that sanctions imposed by the United States are still in place against the security forces in Saint Lucia under the Leahy Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA).
“Leahy law restrictions remain in place against the Royal St Lucia Police,” a State Department spokesperson said.
In 2013, Saint Lucia was restricted by the terms of what is commonly referred to as the “Leahy Law” from receiving security-related assistance from the United States as a result of “credible evidence of extrajudicial killings of 17 people in 2010-2011” by the island’s security forces. The US Department of State suspended assistance to the local police force and cancelled the visas of a number of senior police officers, denying them travel to the US.
Notwithstanding the existence of the Leahy Law sanctions, there are troubling reports coming out of Saint Lucia that not only imply a complete lack of contrition in relation to past human rights abuses by the island’s entire national security apparatus, they are apparently perpetuating the same offensive pattern of behaviour.
Following a recent donation of computers and other office equipment to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Saint Lucia by the Bridgetown embassy’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Office, the State Department has now clarified its definition of “security forces” for the purposes of the Leahy Law, since there is no definition in the FAA itself.
According to the State Department spokesperson, “Security forces units subject to Leahy vetting generally include foreign militaries, reserves, police, homeland security forces such as border guards or customs police, prison guards, and other units or individual members of units authorized to use force. A country’s prosecutors’ office is generally not considered a security force.”
The State Department had stated previously that the DPP is excluded from the ambit of the Leahy Law on the grounds that it is a “civilian agency”, notwithstanding that the “civilian agency” in question is responsible for the ongoing failure to prosecute those involved in the extra-judicial killings and is therefore at least in part responsible for the impunity still enjoyed by those individuals, which is what prompted the US to apply the Leahy Law in the first place.
Based on information from local sources that some of the donated computers were to be diverted to the ministry of national security, we also asked the State Department if any conditions were attached to the donation of the equipment in question as to its ultimate use and/or location and if the State Department maintains any continuing oversight in this respect.
“The donation was for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution. Donated equipment is to benefit the institution to which it is donated. Embassy Bridgetown carries out end-use monitoring of donated equipment,” the spokesperson said.
We further asked whether or not the US government has pledged to fund a proposed new border control entity in Saint Lucia as claimed last week by national security minister, Senator Hermangild Francis.
“The United States does not provide assistance to entities that fall under the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. We continue to support the efforts of the government of St Lucia to improve safety and security for its citizens and visitors,” the spokesperson said.
When this “pledge” is actually kept by the US would appear to depend on whether or not funding for the new marine police unit was included when the 2017 budget request was sent to Congress. If not, it would likely require prior notification to Congress.
Currently, the 2018 budget not only proposes a 29 percent cut in State Department funding, it also reduces spending on an already financially constrained US Coast Guard and the promise by the State Department (presumably in the shape of the US ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean, who recently visited Saint Lucia) to fund an entire border security entity for a sanctioned country, when the US administration is not even prepared to support its own coastguard, is something that is likely to be taken up by the respective congressional committees.
In the meantime, a former government minister in Saint Lucia has stated publicly that he has evidence of a politically-motivated plot by the local police to arrest him in order to suppress his outspoken criticism of the government. Complicit in the alleged plot, he said, are the commissioner of police, the DPP and the national security minister.
According to other local sources, separately confirmed by contacts in foreign intelligence services, attempts by the national security minister and by the Cabinet itself to suppress criticism and dissent have now reached new levels, with intercepted requests reportedly made to collaborators in Hong Kong and Canada for assistance in hacking the electronic communications of individuals deemed to be “enemies of the state”.
The list of at least 20 such targets provided to us includes former Cabinet ministers, opposition activists and news contributors and columnists.
Canadian authorities are understood to be taking a very serious view of such threats to intimidate or otherwise suppress the freedom of speech of any of their residents or citizens.