The Government of the United States of America, yesterday softened the position it took against the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) eight years ago, by announcing a resumption of cooperation and assistance to select units of the force.
U.S. Ambassador to Saint Lucia Linda Taglialatela was the one who made the announcement in Saint Lucia shortly after holding talks with Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
Stating that the resumption of cooperation and assistance to the police force will begin immediately Ambassador Taglialatela added that this came about after a review that included extensive consultations across U.S. Government agencies.
“We have been able to identify a number of units within the RSLPF with which we will be able to resume full cooperation and engagement,” said Ambassador Taglialatela. “This means that units such as the Marine and Immigration units will again be able to enjoy the full benefits of U.S. security assistance that we are planning to begin in the coming months,” she continued.
The RSLPF units will be eligible for security assistance including the regional multimillion-dollar Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. The US Embassy in Barbados also confirmed that “some of Saint Lucia’s security units may also benefit from professional military educational and technical training courses provided through the United States Department of Defense; State Partnership Program exchanges with the Florida and U.S. Virgin Island National Guards; and regular maritime maintenance support through U.S. Southern Command’s Technical Assistance Field Team.”
The announcement, made at a press conference yesterday morning, was accepted with elation by Prime Minister Chastanet who responded that “this is a step in the right direction.”
“We are encouraged by this announcement by the United States. I was heartened to hear that $500,000 that was set aside for our Marine Unit will now be available to upgrade the units we now have. The Marine Unit has played a critical role during the COVID period. This is welcomed news,” Chastanet said.
The United States and Saint Lucia have a long history of cooperation to enhance security in the region. Through USAID and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the United States has helped integrate juvenile offenders into society, offered community-based conflict resolution training, and assisted in the harmonization of criminal sentencing guidelines across the region.
The US Embassy (Bridgetown) in a release noted that “the United States looks forward to expanding its cooperation and engagement with Saint Lucia, and an important part of this process is to ensure full accountability on allegations of extrajudicial killings.”
The restrictions imposed on the police in 2013 were as a result of a piece of American legislation called the Leahy Law, which was invoked when members of the force were found by the United States government to have participated in a serious abuse of human rights.
America’s interest in Saint Lucia and its ability to implement the Leahy Law on the police force is because Saint Lucia was a recipient of security assistance from the United States.
A part of the Leahy Law dictates that if a military or para-military unit of a foreign country is found to have been credibly implicated in a serious abuse of human rights, then the United States would have to deny that unit assistance until the host nation government, meaning Saint Lucia in this case, takes effective steps to bring the responsible persons within the unit to justice.
The United States imposition of the Leahy Law on the RSLPF is due entirely to events emanating from a police led operation in 2010 – 2011 called Operation Restore Confidence (ORC), which led to the shooting deaths of 12 persons by police.
An inquest into the deaths by local government did not result in the lifting of the Leahy Law. Neither was the law lifted when the Kenny Anthony led government, in 2014, called in a team from CARICOM called IMPACS (Implementation Agency for Crime and Security) to investigate the shootings that the United States deemed as serious abuses of human rights.
There has been about three investigations into the shooting deaths from ORC with nothing coming out of them. The last investigation was led by a team in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Government of Saint Lucia over the years has been holding talks with the US government to arrive at ways in which Saint Lucia could meet the US government’s approval in order to lift the Leahy law.
The Leahy Law is very specific. The VOICE learned that with the United States whenever there is a case of extrajudicial killing, there has to be credible prosecution. The US government, back in 2016, had chastised Saint Lucia for making no meaningful progress towards criminal prosecution.
That seems to have change with time, what with the resumption of assistance to the two units within the force. The axe, however, still hangs over the officers implicated by the US in the shooting spree of 2010/2011. The call for credible prosecution by the US government is still being made.