WASHINGTON, USA -- A recent donation of computers and other equipment worth EC$100,000 (US$37,000) by the US embassy in Bridgetown to Saint Lucia’s Crown Prosecutions Service has been questioned by sources in other US government agencies as to whether this was legally permitted under sanctions against Saint Lucia in relation to the island’s security forces.
In 2013, Saint Lucia was prohibited by the terms of what is commonly referred to as the “Leahy Law” from receiving security-related assistance from the US 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.
In July last year, the United States made it clear to the then newly elected government in Saint Lucia that the ongoing failure to bring to justice those responsible within the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) for gross violations of human rights prevented the US from reconsidering the sanctions imposed under the Leahy Law.
“We have made it clear to the current Saint Lucian administration and prior administrations that the government of Saint Lucia’s failure to bring to justice those responsible within the RSLPF for gross violations of human rights through credible judicial processes and prosecutions, where appropriate, prevents the United States from reconsidering the suspension of assistance to the RSLPF,” a State Department official said at the time.
The State Department is required to determine and report that the host government is taking effective steps to bring those responsible to justice before US security-related assistance can be resumed under the law.
Neither the Bridgetown embassy nor the State Department in Washington responded to a request for clarification as to whether or not the sanctions imposed on Saint Lucia under the Leahy amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act are still in place or if they have since been lifted.
However, according to other US government sources, no report has been submitted to Congress requesting or otherwise indicating that the Leahy Law sanctions against Saint Lucia be or have been lifted or modified.
According to US ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Taglialatela, the donation of equipment was made through the embassy’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Office, which itself has thus far failed to explain why its 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report is seriously flawed in relation the Eastern Caribbean.
Although Taglialatela claimed that the embassy is committed to supporting efforts to strengthen the rule of law in Saint Lucia, there is little or no evidence of any such efforts locally.
In fact, former Saint Lucia government minister Richard Frederick stated as recently as last week that Saint Lucia has an “unprecedented level of crime in the country”.
“We are barely in the fourth month of the year and we have had 20 homicides. We are the crime capital of the OECS,” he said.
Questions have therefore arisen as to whether the donation of equipment by the US embassy, ostensibly to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), constitutes State Department funded aid to “any unit of the security forces” of Saint Lucia pursuant to Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act 1961 (as amended).
There is no definition in the Foreign Assistance Act for the term “security forces”; however, the Department of Defense (DOD) defines the term as “duly constituted military, paramilitary, police, and constabulary forces of a state” and that “foreign security forces include but are not limited to: military forces; police forces; border police, coast guard, and customs officials; paramilitary forces; forces peculiar to specific nations, states, tribes, or ethnic groups; prison, correctional, and penal services; infrastructure protection forces; and governmental ministries or departments responsible for the above forces”.
In addition to Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and director of public prosecutions Daasrean Greene, also present at the official hand-over ceremony of the donated equipment, which included 28 desktop computers, 12 laptops, 8 printers, 2 scanners and 24 filing cabinets, was permanent secretary in the ministry of home affairs, justice and national security, Dr Cadelia Ambrose.
Minister with responsibility for home affairs, justice and national security, Hermangild Francis, was reportedly unable to attend the ceremony due to a senate sitting at the same time; however, his thanks were also conveyed to the US embassy.
Furthermore, according to local sources, some of the donated computers will in fact be located in and used by the ministry of home affairs, justice and national security, which is responsible for the RSLPF, and thus appears to fall within the DOD definition of “security forces” even if it could be argued that the DPP does not, although the latter assertion would be somewhat strained given that the ongoing failure of the DPP to prosecute those involved in the extra-judicial killings at the root of the sanctions in the first place is at least in part responsible for the impunity enjoyed by those individuals to which the US has objected.
Specifically, it is understood that some of the laptop computers have been or will be delivered directly to Francis as national security minister, which in itself may represent a direct violation of the Leahy Law.