Mary Francis slams police for reckless handling of those in custody
Attorney at Law and coordinator of the National Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights Incorporated Mary Francis has called for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission.
Francis’s request follows the recent incident in Laborie over the weekend where a 32-year-old male was found hanging in the washroom of the Laborie Police Station on Saturday, December 7, while in police custody.
The victim, Shem Sinaise, was allegedly taken into police custody to answer to reports of a family dispute.
On Monday, December 9, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force issued a statement on the alleged suicide, which Mary Francis says left more questions unanswered.
The incident she noted has brought up memories of a similar incident in 2013 at the Micoud police station where the body of 22-year-old Chakadan Daniel was found hanging in his cell.
On the December 10 observance of World Human Rights Day, Francis says a call must be sounded to enact justice for those who have suffered as a result of negligence and questionable actions on the part of law enforcement.
"In Saint Lucia today we all know through the media, the reports that we get, in terms of law enforcement, there is much more to be desired," Francis stated.
“As far as I am aware and to my great disappointment, it is now…2011, it is now almost eight years we still have not resolved the question of the police killings that took place in 2011. You have in most recent times, up to two days ago another young man was found dead in police custody. You had again last week another young man released from custody, he has disappeared. So even in this department, there is a sort of recklessness in terms of actually performing their duty, which is to protect the rights of persons in custody," Francis lamented.
She highlighted the release of Vieux Fort resident, 21-year-old Michael Blaze in Choiseul who has been missing since November 24, 2019.
“I think this was a case of extreme recklessness on the part of the police because I heard it being said that he was a guy with some mental issue and going to the special eds, how was it the police never was able to decipher that and able to sense this aspect? Why is it that they…I don’t know apparently never communicated with the family, which according to our laws, the rules governing arrest of persons; you have rights in custody. A right to a telephone call to call your parents or your lawyer,” the attorney declared.
“The excuse that it was 72 hours and you had to release him, that is just ridiculous,” she continued.
“He should have been kept in custody for his own protection,” she asserted.
Francis is calling for the formation of a National Human Rights Commission, focusing on the protection of human rights.
“This was called for in 2015 when Saint Lucia had to submit before the United Nations on Human Rights Council in Geneva for periodic review of the steps that Saint Lucia has taken to implement conventions of the United Nations Convention and a call was made in view of the various problems in Saint Lucia to have a National Commission of Human Rights set up by government.” Francis stated.
Francis says human rights advocates have oftentimes been at the receiving end of political backlash when championing the cause of marginalized people.
Human Rights Day is being observed under the theme “Youth Standing Up for Human Rights.”