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‘Human Rights Association never protected criminals’

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07.JUL.06

Editor: As Co-ordinator of the SVG-Human Rights Association, I feel obligated to respond to Ms. Ann-marie John’s article under the caption “NOT FIT TO BE CALLED PARENTS!” which appeared in the Searchlight Newspaper of Friday, June 23, 2006, and in which she criticized the SVG-Human Rights Association for “only spending time trying to protect criminals from facing the death penalty or just penalty for their crimes”, and to set the record straight.{{more}}

Ms. John, as far as I know the SVG-Human Rights Association never protected criminals from facing the death penalty. The former President who is now deceased, was a practicing lawyer and whatever work he did, be it death penalty cases or otherwise, were completely private.

What has happened over the years is that reports which appeared in the press on criminal cases he had done, linked his position as President/SVGHRA with his private practice, and often reported as if they were cases from the Human Rights Association.

To my knowledge the SVG Human Rights Association never contracted any lawyer then to appear on its behalf on any criminal matters.

So your attack on the Association is incorrect and misleading. Hereunder is our Mission Statement:

“The SVG-Human Rights Association is committed to promoting and protecting the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines through education, training, representation, documentation and advocacy and by networking to influence the government and other agencies.”

Be that as it may, I would like to enlighten you of some of the work done by the SVG-Human Rights Association on women and children.

First Symposium

During the year 1991 we hosted the first Symposium on The Rights of the Child which addressed areas such as “Maternal and Child Health Care”, “Parenting of Children,” “What steps should be taken to improve the Rights and Welfare of the Child.”

Again in 1994 we partnered with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF and held a Seminar/Workshop which addressed areas of the “Convention on the Rights of the Child,” “Maternal and Child Health Care, its promotion, practice, problems and successes in SVG”, followed by a Media Education Programme via the print media on the Rights of the Child for the period 1994-1995. Those articles dealt with topics such as Child Abuse, Adoption, Refugee Children, Health, Juveniles, Abortions, Disabilities, Teenage Pregnancy and Criminal Offence (Children).

Another Seminar/Workshop on Women’s Rights which addressed areas such as “Monitoring Violence against Women and Children and taking

necessary Measures for its Alleviation,” and “Women’s role in Human Reproduction.”

Seminar/Workshop in 1997 on “Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse.” Topics discussed on “What can be done to reduce the Incidence of Child Sexual Abuse in SVG,” and “Ways of Reducing Sexual Abuse in SVG.”

In the year 2002 again another Seminar/Workshop which addressed areas such as “Problems regarding Children’s Rights in SVG,” “Pre-school Education in SVG.”

Participants at those workshops came from NGOs, government departments, and community organizations.

Recommendations coming out of the above-mentioned workshops were made public and calls were made for:

(1) The government to introduce compulsory education for all primary schools.

(2) To set up an Independent National Commission to review the situation of children and to make recommendations to government for the purpose of promoting and realizing the rights of children in SVG.

(3) To make the Rights in the Convention widely known to the people, and that all non-governmental organizations in SVG with matters concerning children, should endeavour to propagate and promote the various rights as set out in the Convention and to be alert in identifying and seeking remedies for abuses or violations of those rights.

We also called on the government after the 1994 workshop:

(1) To take a multi-disciplinary approach to child abuse which should be adopted by doctors, police, social workers, lawyers, counselors, among others, who should be involved in a Committee-like structure, to provide for the removal of children from living with a parent who has sexually and/or physically abused a child.

(2) To ensure that the perpetrators of child abuse are prosecuted and that such cases are not “made up” or settled out of Court.

(3) To have social programmes to advise children what to do if they become victims of any form of abuse or parental neglect. Schools, churches, the police and Social workers and Lawyers should be involved in such programmes – just to name a few.

Legal Aid was given to women and children from 1991 – 1999 for Domestic Violence matters including sexual or any other forms of abuse on children, once the matter was taken to Court. This aid was attached to our project. The amount was small, but it made a difference in the lives of many women and children.

During the years 1995 to 1999 and then 2004-2005 – television programmes were aired every Friday evening discussing mainly women and children rights. We also partnered with the then Women’s Affairs Department – went throughout the country and held a Series of Village Meetings for the period of 1997-1998.

I would like Ms. John to know that the Human Rights Association has done its fair share with respect to Child Abuse and Domestic Violence, single handedly as a Non-profit Organization and without any financial contributions from the private sector and government. Furthermore, why attack us and not the government! They have the primary responsibility to provide the resources etc. to address the problem of child abuse.

It is time that you come forward and do your part as a citizen of SVG to address the problem, instead of criticizing and hiding behind a paper veil, as continuous work needs to be done in the area of child sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Finally, the pronouncements made by the SVG-Human Rights Association over the years are on the infringements of a person(s) rights, and not on protecting criminals.

Inez Cuffy

Coordinator

SVG Human Right Association

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