British Virgin Islands

Wednesday, Aug 12, 2020

Colonialism as Usual: 'Immunity Clause' sought to place liability on RVIPF, instead of on individual officers acting under the authority of a warrant

Colonialism as Usual: 'Immunity Clause' sought to place liability on RVIPF, instead of on individual officers acting under the authority of a warrant

The Immunity law that BVI is trying to pass now is much the same as the law that the USA has - the one that allowed Derek Chauvin to get immunity 12 times(!) before he finally succeeded in murdering George Floyd.

The clumsy attempt by the Office of the Governor Augustus "Gus" Jaspert to justify the anti-human-rights provisions in the controversial Police Act of 2019 (which guarantees immunity to an officer who commits crimes against citizens - as long as they’re doing it during their working hours) is by itself illegal and full of lies.

But to try to pass such a senseless law in the times of BLM and the George Floyd movement is simply stupidity overlaid with obtuseness.

The proverbial bones of contention within the newly proposed Bill are its clauses, 22 and 185.

The Governor seems to be assuming that his audience are such total idiots that in 2020 they will accept the unrepentant colonialist mind-set that he continues to display.

The first states that police officers are not personally liable for criminal acts committed while under a warrant; while the latter clause provides immunity for police officers committing crimes against citizens under the authority of a warrant.

Responding to BVI News queries via email, the Governor’s Office said, risibly and ridiculously, when the Act speaks of ‘immunity’ for members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF), it does not mean what is clearly written in the law: that officers will in all cases be exempted from punishment and enjoy freedom from the injurious consequences of an action.

Instead, the Governor’s Office said - with a straight face – that it means the complete opposite. This is a truly egregious example of government double-speak. No one with half a brain would buy this outrageous bullshit.

The Governor is lying without shame
“In no way, shape, or form, do the clauses in question mean total immunity for police officers. They will continue to be held to the highest standards when carrying out their duties, including being held to account under the Police Act and Regulations,” the email correspondence stated.

The only problem with what the Governor, speaking through his parrot-proxies, said is that it is an absolute lie: Clauses 22 in this law is providing “immunity” for members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) for criminal acts committed while acting under a warrant.

In the year of 2020, why should an external white officer have the freedom to kill or harm local black citizens (the owners of this land) just because he’s wearing a uniform? He has the honour of wearing that uniform simply to serve and to be accountable to the people, and to uphold the law, with the same respect - and certainly no less - as would any other citizen.
How can the family of a victim of criminal police violence get justice, when the law fails to provide it in a civilized way? By citizens justice, when they take the law – and the revenge – into their own hands?

Liability would be placed on RVIPF, not on individual officers. But liability should not be placed on society at large, when the education and social systems have failed to prevent citizens from falling into the path of crime.

In explaining the "intention" behind those clauses, the Governor’s Office said they were made to place the responsibility, or “liability on the RVIPF as an organization rather than on individual officers”.

So, by extension of this hierarchical progression, why doesn't the UK take responsibility for every local crime that is a direct consequence of colonialism, racism, poverty, poor education and inadequate health-care? Why doesn't the UK take responsibility for the life-long disadvantaged victims of this broken system who eventually, inevitably stumble and commit crime?

Why should society take collective responsibility for individual failure only for the privileged class, but not for the errant ways of the second-class citizens in BVI?

The unadulterated bullshit continues:

“In doing so, the Act ensures a high level of accountability in our security and justice system.”
Yeah, right.

The Governor’s Office statement is a remarkable literary effort (well worthy of the misconceived Act itself). What is high-level in it is the Orwellian double-speak; what is low-level in it is logic and common sense; and what is completely absent from it is its relevance to the justice system.

First, the Act does not ensure a high level of accountability. In fact, it does the opposite. It means the police have zero accountability for any of their own transgressions.

Second, what has the complete absence of police accountability – in fact the removal of accountability - to do with a fair and functioning justice system? Absolutely nothing. In fact, probably the opposite.

Third, the real crux of the matter and the thrust of new legislation should be improving the justice system. But is there anybody - external, independent and neutral - who is assigned to ensuring that the justice system is not corrupted, wrong or stupid? Are there wise, guiding hands on the tiller whose role is to correct the deviations, fine-tune the balance, and keep justice on course? No, nobody. How strange. It seems that Judges appointed under English Law are not accountable to anyone or anything. It seems they are above the law. How very strange.

Fourth, the proposed Act would give a clear mandate to these Judges – themselves above the law – to extend full protection to individual officers who break the law when acting under orders, even for a crime against the person. This is completely wrong on two counts, and completely against natural justice. First, the police are not above the law; and second, if the order or the police action was illegal, the law should be protecting the victims, not the criminals.

So the parrots in the Governor's Office have really excelled themselves with their 4-pronged response: a masterpiece in double-speak; a world-class exposition of false logic; a parody of law and order; and a travesty of justice.

"It is important to note that the provisions included in the Act already exist across the rest of our public service and in other Police Acts within the Commonwealth,” the Governor’s Office said.

Why is it "important"? Why do you have one set of rules of law in London for the British, and a different set of laws for your second-class citizens across the Commonwealth? (And by the way: the 'wealth' of whom? Of the BVI? I don’t think so. In "common" with what? BVI citizens? I don’t think so.)

Bad practices from the past should not be copied today just because they were your modus operandi back in the day. Just because at one time your major trading activity in Hong Kong was to market drugs in China to addict and impoverish millions of innocent people does not mean you can get away with it today. Just because you were responsible – in part – for the kidnap, rape, torture and enslavement of 40 million victims of the Black Holocaust, should we adopt in 2020 the corrupt and evil traditions that made you so rich and made others so poor? Why use your reprehensible behaviours of the past as a reference for today? Is there anything in the historical treatment of your second-class citizens of which you can be proud? Or are we just missing something?

In 2020, in the awake of George Floyd and BLM, it’s time to fix what’s wrong with the Commonwealth Territories and to dispense of all the racist rules and colonialist traditions that were left behind after Empire. It’s time to bin those rules and traditions that fly in the face of human rights and natural justice, not to expand them even more as this law is suggesting.

“When off duty, they are accountable to the law just like everyone else,” it added, as if we do not know that in the USA, hundreds of innocent black people are murdered every year while the police are on duty, not off duty.

The Office of the Governor further said the legislation will build on what it describes as the "already high standard of the RVIPF".
(Sure: the slave traders also got rewarded with medals and with respect for their "high standards", but in serving whom? Certainly not the poor unfortunates being trafficked in the holds of the stinking ships!)

It explained that "the proposed Act is designed to modernise law enforcement policies in the Virgin Islands". How so? By pushing the Territory back down into the deep, dark abyss of the Common Law, the terrible years from 1700-1900?

The genius who crafted the Office of the Governor’s laughable response should get himself “modernized” by going back to school for the basic education and sense of history that he is clearly missing. While he is at it, he would do well to learn what the law is about, and what honesty is about. Because an understanding of neither of these fundamentals is evident in his mendacious propaganda.

Meanwhile, the email correspondence said the Governor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the RVIPF were all involved in the "development" of the new legislation. What "development" is that? All we can see is a huge retrograde step: the destruction of the progress in basic human rights achieved in the past 50 years; and the casting of the BVI back into the darkest part of its colonial past. And why, in a democracy, would you consult with the people who will be given immunity instead of asking the people of BVI, who are the potential victims of such a law?

It claims that advice from the Attorney General’s Chambers was also sought to “ensure that there were no breaches of the laws governing the Territory or the rights of citizens” - but the deviant nature of the law itself provide the evidence that this claim was also a lie. The immunity law is illegal by itself. As we know from the Nazi era, not every law is legal; and as we know from Nelson Mandela, not every act of breaking the law is illegal.

Absolute obedience to the rule of law is just a modern British form of slavery, as the law is not applied equally to every class in the same way. While we absolutely support respect for the rule of law, it’s time to educate law officials that the rule of justice is always above the rule of law. If the law does not apply to every citizen, then it does not apply to any citizen. People are born with equal rights, despite racist rules and discriminating traditions that suggest otherwise.

While we greatly appreciate the importance of collective and equal obedience to the rule of law, we, unlike slaves educated also to obey laws that discriminate against them, do not forget that the rule of justice is always above the rule of law. And this is what your illustrious Law Schools “forget” to teach their students. They pontificate about the rule of law, instead of making paramount the rule of justice. In your much-vaunted legal system you have courts run by lawyers, but no courts for justice to check and balance them, run by people from all walks of life, not lawyers.

Bottom line: No one can or should put any civil servant above the law. No one can claim that people who have no accountability should have any right to hold others accountable. The police should be the first to obey the law; they should not be granted a license to break it. Law enforcement should lead by example, not by lawlessness.

We are sure the the BVI police is comprised of honest, loyal and wonderful civil servants. The law that you are trying to pass now is much the same as the law that the USA has - the one that allowed Derek Chauvin to get immunity 12 times before he finally succeeded in murdering George Floyd. But gratuitous immunity will not actually benefit all the wonderful people who work in the police. Instead it will condemn them to suffer from the same damaged reputation as the bad guys who feel free to behave criminally while hiding under the blanket of this pernicious immunity law.

We should be thankful and proud of our good police officers. They are the majority. The law should accord them the same respect. The law should not provide immunity for Their criminals.

The law should not cover up the misdeeds of the few bad guys who damage the reputation of all the rest.

Act failed to pass

The Act, according to Premier Andrew Fahie, failed to pass in the House of Assembly after being recently introduced and debated.

He explained that the Act did not get the support from either side of the political aisle. Surprise, surprise.

“The numbers were not there to approve that Police Act. The members unanimously in terms of voting, instructed me as the Premier and Minister of Finance - and I so was guided - for the Act to go in a full committee of the House so that the concerns that the public had raised can be addressed and that is what true democracy is about,” he said in recent sitting of the House.

Premier Fahie said this would be a Special Select Committee comprising all Members. During the proceedings of this Select Committee, the Police Act will be assessed clause by clause before making a return to the public in a new session of the House of Assembly.

Comments

Jose 16 days ago
Good one!
M. 17 days ago
I would write this whole article in one sentence:
If the law enforcement members are exempt from obeying the rule of law, does it not exempt everyone else from obeying it anyway?
A.K 17 days ago
I do not necessarily agree with the writing style and especially the choice of words, but definitely agree with all the content itself. Well done.

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