10 October 2011

British Manipulating Turks and Caicos Judiciary to Ensure Mass Convictions; Targets Island lawyers

by AnselLoya
Ground Report  

The UK government has officially confirmed its intervention of legal rights in Turks and Caicos. Following a two year corruption investigation led by UK’s Special Investigation Prosecution Team (SIPT) in Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), Helen Garlick (SIPT lead prosector) and Turks and Caicos’s Attorney General Huw Shepheard announced officially that local TCI lawyers are “probably suspects” and therefore will bring in London lawyers assisting SIPT to represent those accused of corruption in TCI. SIPT has been installed in TCI, along with the British regime, taking back TCI government from the TCI people since August 2009. The UK had insisted in August 2009 that the former Premier and several of his cabinet members were corrupt. The SIPT investigation has yet to bring any results.

However, the TCI people soon learned that SIPT and the British regime are not just investigating corruption and they are not in TCI merely to prosecute corruption. The UK had announced that they are implicating all TCIslanders for corruption. Therefore, the UK has dissolved TCI government, written a new constitution and have recolonized TCI. The UK originally stated that it would “help” TCI get back on track. However, the UK planned evolved and TCI is now unrecognizable to TCIslanders. British new faces take up government official jobs, islanders are shut out of all decisions because they are all “suspects” according to the UK. Only local staunch UK supporters are allowed on any government board but even they have no vote.

There have been insider warnings for two years that TCI lawyers would be eventually sidelined by UK in an effort to limit legal rights to those accused of corruption by SIPT. This attack on TCI lawyers apparently has been in the works since the start of the UK occupation in August 2009. Our sources tell us that the British government through the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) had made a plan to dismantle TCI’s judiciary (accomplished), dissolve TCIslanders’ rights to trial by jury (accomplished), and then finally to remove or conflict local TCI lawyers (in the final stages). Everything predicted came true even while most TCI people doubted it could be possible.

Why is the UK government doing this in TCI? The British regime in TCI had been telling parliament and warning the TCI people over two years that many TCIslanders will be implemented in criminal charges because of close family relations, which is also the excuse as to why the (SIPT) investigation has taken over two years while TCIslanders have gone without democracy. The plan all along has seemingly been to withhold TCI peoples’ democracy and capacity for fair trials so that recolonization could go unchallenged.

The biggest concern with the latest development of removing TCI lawyers is that the accused would not have the right to a fair trial for several different reasons, but in this matter they would be prejudiced in their restriction in hiring a lawyer of their choice.

Furthermore, it has been feared that not only would local TCI lawyers be sidelined but that UK lawyers would be imported as the peoples’ options for legal representation, UK lawyers who could be biased in favour of the UK agenda and the ones with the true conflict of interest. In this case, the SIPT has brought in and decided which lawyers will represent the accused. The glaring conflict of interest is that SIPT made the selection of lawyers to represent those accused by SIPT, it is a clear conflict of interest since SIPT will be prosecuting. The new UK lawyers, obliged to SIPT, will be working to defend the accused from the same group that enlisted them (SIPT).

Exactly as feared, an announcement was just made that UK’s SIPT is bringing in law firms from London to help the SIPT with upcoming criminal charges to represent Turks and Caicos people accused of corruption because “Turks and Caicos Islands law firms might face conflicts in representing their clients” because they are “probably suspects”. The law firms are from London, Pinsent Masons LLP and London barristers Richard Kovalevsky QC and Sean Hammond from 2 Bedford Row.

TCI’s political parties also have warned of the draconian changes made to the legal system in TCI, worrying that the UK changes are meant to guaranty convictions instead of uphold justice.

The PNP party saw this judicial degrade occur early on when UK’s Colin Roberts celebrated the UK’s judicial power over TCI, the PNP said, “For [Mr. Collins] to proclaim and predict the outcome of a pending court case, could severely undermine the integrity, credibility and fairness of the judicial process; ... Indeed, Mr. Robert's comments implies a dismissive attitude to the judicial process; [...] on grounds that suspending the House of Assembly is unconstitutional and infringes the human rights of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

The PDM party said in March 2010 on the dissolution of the TCI peoples’ right to trial by jury, “the temptation will be there for the judiciary to have absolute power over the lives of our people.”

Local lawyers, including TCI Bar President George Missick opposes the degradation of legal rights by UK's attack on TCI lawyers and calls SIPT a fishing expedition. One local lawyer said about the UK’s actions, “There is clearly no separation of powers … in particular the administration of justice in the Turks and Caicos Islands... The Judges are selected and appointed by the Governor; the Special Investigator Helen Garlick was selected and appointed by and answers to the governor, the Attorney General of the Turks and Caicos Islands are appointed by and answers to the governor, the top brass of the police force appointed by and answers to the governor.”

TCIslanders are in need of human rights relief. The UK’s abuse of the judicial system in Turks and Caicos is prejudicing and harming the TCI people. Now that the UK is importing legal representation for TCIslanders accused under SIPT, it will violate legal rights and set an international precedent for this kind of legal prejudice and degradation of the rule of law.