The human rights group Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. (ERAO SVG) says it is “deeply concerned” about the record-high number of homicides that occurred in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) last year.
In 2022, SVG recorded 42 homicides, shattering the 2016 record — 40.
“Violent crimes, especially those involving lethal force, appear to be at an all-time high in contemporary Vincentian society,” ERAO SVG said in a press statement.
“In particular, the gruesome nature of some of these violent crimes, especially those that were perpetuated against women, was noted by ERAO SVG,” the group said.
It said that it was reported by some media outlet in 2022 that allegedly body parts from a dead female were found in bags, and in another reported killing, allegedly a dead female was found impaled with a foreign object in her genital area.
“ERAO SVG strongly condemns these heinous crimes and reminds Vincentians that all human beings have a right to life,” the group said.
While some media outlets had reported that the body of Precious Ziggy-Ann Zafhti Williams, 17, which was found in a bag in Richmond Hill on May 12, 2022, was mutilated, police said that was not the case and the entire body was intact.
ERAO SVG said the right to life, which each human being is born, is found in SVG’s Constitution and numerous international treaties and documents such as the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Though the right to life is not an absolute one and may be limited under special circumstances, it should not be taken away arbitrarily nor without lawful justification by any person or the State,” the group said.
“ERAO SVG encourages all Vincentians and persons living within and under the jurisdiction of SVG to respect the rights of others, including the right to life of every human being in SVG.
“ERAO SVG also reminds the State of SVG that the obligation to deal with violent crimes facing SVG not only rests on its citizens, persons within and under its jurisdiction, and other non-state actors, but the State also has an obligation to deal with these violent crimes that violate a multitude of human rights, including the right to life.”
The group said that SVG, like many other states, has an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of persons living within and under its jurisdiction.
“According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, ‘States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.’
“ERAO SVG, therefore, calls upon the State of SVG to put more measures in place to prevent, investigate, prosecute, punish, and develop proper data collection measures to study and assess the extent of violent crimes in SVG.
“ERAO SVG would like to see an SVG where everyone, especially the most vulnerable, can live their lives free from fear of persecution, violence, discrimination, and death.”