Friday 5 June, 2020

OECS Bar Association condemns threats against St Lucian judge

Justice Eddy Ventose

Justice Eddy Ventose

The OECS Bar Association joins with the Bar Council of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis in strongly condemning recent attacks on Justice Eddy Ventose following his February 27, 2020 ruling in a High Court matter involving certain lawyers, who are also public officials.

We have seen in particular several Facebook posts containing both open and implied death threats and threats of violence against the Honorable Judge and even inciting violence towards him. We call upon those persons responsible to immediately cease and desist from the cowardly and defamatory attacks via social media and wish to warn others who may harbor similar intentions to desist from so doing.

The OECS Bar will not sit idly by in the face of threats against members of our judiciary as it has consistently demonstrated since its formation over 30 years ago. We call upon the leadership of the police service in the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis to treat seriously the threats against Justice Ventose and to conduct a swift true and thorough investigation.

Further, we call upon the State to ensure that adequate heightened security is maintained for Justice Ventose and other judicial officials in the face of the current threats.

Only in December 2019, on the eve of general elections in the Commonwealth of Dominica, the OECS Bar had occasion to issue a statement condemning attacks on Justice Bernie Stephenson prior to and following her ruling on election related issues.

We urge all political leaders in St Kitts and Nevis and indeed the OECS, to lead by example in ensuring that, in the midst of all the campaigning and enthusiasm among supporters, due respect is accorded to our judges and to the rule of law, and a sense of peace and calm is maintained. It must always be remembered that Judges make decisions on matters based on the evidence before them and their interpretation of the applicable law.

The OECS Bar fully recognises that members of the public have a fundamental right to freedom of expression and our statement should not be construed in any way to suggest that Judges are above criticism. We encourage legitimate and responsible criticism but wholly reject unlawful, violent threats and defamatory attacks on our judges.

The appellate process affords redress to dissatisfied litigants. Disrespect for Judges and the court ought not to be encouraged and tacitly supported by anyone. When the dust is settled, how does one then ask of the public to refrain from criminal behavior when it appears to be condoned towards certain persons.

The OECS Bar calls on the people, the churches, the business community and the political parties to vehemently condemn and discourage any type of threats and violence to members of the judiciary and indeed to anyone. Let us all continue to work towards strengthening our judiciary for the benefit of the people of the OECS.

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