Ten years after being locked out of the United States Southern Command Exercise programme known as Tradewinds, a contingent from the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF), including senior officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and male and female police constables, travelled to Belize between March 18 and May 6 of this year to participate.
Saint Lucia last participated in Tradewinds in 2012.
Tradewinds is a regionally oriented maritime and ground security exercise that promotes regional security cooperation by involving security forces from partner nations, primarily from the Caribbean Basin, U.S., Canada, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It is also a U.S. Southern Command sponsored combined joint exercise conducted with partner nations to enhance the collective ability of defense forces and constabularies to counter transnational organized crime and conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, while developing strong relationships and reinforcing human rights awareness.
The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force was banned from the U.S. led joint exercise by its powerful neighbour, for its killing from 2010 -2011 of 12 individuals during a police-led operation dubbed ‘Operation Restore Confidence’.
The United States, while commending the Government of Saint Lucia for inviting the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) to conduct an investigation into the killings, noted that the killings were extra-judicial in nature and called for the officers who participated in the killings to be criminally prosecuted.
The United States then slapped Saint Lucia with one of its laws, known as the “Leahy Law”, which is a U.S. human rights law named for its primary sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). First approved by Congress in 1997, it prohibits the United States from providing equipment and training to a foreign military unit or individual suspected of committing “gross human rights violations.”
The U.S. government considers torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and rape under colour of law as ‘gross violations of human rights’ when implementing the Leahy Law.
Now that the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force is participating once again in a United States-led training exercise, does that mean that the Leahy Law no longer applies?
Not so, said a high ranking police officer, who explained to THE VOICE that the United States recognises the effort made on the part of the Government of Saint Lucia to deal with the extra-judicial killings and so eases up on its stance against the police force.
This is not the first time the United States has demonstrated a relaxing of its position on the island’s law enforcement body. The Marine Unit is already being fully sponsored by the Americans as well as the Immigration Unit.
“The United States still maintains its position, but over the years it has become less restrictive to us,” the officer claimed adding that the Tradewinds participation does not mean that the US Sanctions against the police have been removed.
The Tradewinds exercises got underway last Saturday with an opening ceremony and are expected to end next week Saturday (May 21). Participating in the exercises are police personnel from the Special Services Unit (SSU), the Police Marine Unit (PMU), Southern Division, and the Information Technology & Communications Unit.
The Contingent is led by Superintendent Albert Charlery of the Southern Division and Assistant Superintendent Troy E. Lamontagne, Commander of the SSU and Saint Lucia’s lead planner for Exercise Tradewinds 2022.
Representatives from Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Regional Security System (RSS), Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOS), and Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), are among key regional institutions in participation.
Countering Threats executed in a Field Training Exercise and Command Post Exercise is the focus of TW22.
The exercise’s objectives included expanding the region’s capacity to mitigate, plan for and respond to crises, strengthening partnerships, increasing readiness and promoting human rights and adherence to internationally recognized laws and agreements.
The RSLPF personnel exercise activities will focus on interoperability, maritime security, ground operations, cyber defense, medical operations and the integration of women in peace and security missions.
Mexico and Belize will co-host this year’s Tradewinds, with Mexico playing host to naval exercise activities and Belize hosting the land activities.
Domestically, the training seeks to enhance RSLPF personnel skills in (operation) planning within a task force or headquarters framework, engineering administration, maritime law enforcement, cyber defence, internal security, Small Unit Tactics, operations in rural environments, Vehicle Take Downs and Arrest, Search and Seizure techniques, explosives and ordnance disposal (EOD), Medical First Responder, human rights, awareness of the role of women in peace and security, sensitive site exploitation and other sensitive areas.
This is the 37th iteration of Tradewinds. It involves the participation of 22 partner nations along with the U.S.