C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 000078
WHA/CAR FOR ALAIN NORMAN
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DRL FOR GREG MAGGIO
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/06/2018
TAGS: KCRM PGOV INRB PHUM PREL XL VC
SUBJECT: ST. VINCENT: RAPE CHARGES AGAINST PM GONSALVES
REF: 08 BRIDGETOWN 58
Classified By: DCM O.P. Garza for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
Â¶1. (U) This cable is an action request; please see Para 8.
Â¶2. (C) On February 4, 2008 the Director of Public
Prosecutions (DPP) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines
"discontinued" the criminal rape case filed against St.
Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
The case was earlier made public by the Prime Minister
himself, who made statements denying the charges, and
identifying the accuser by name. The accuser's lawyer
expressed deep disappointment at the DPP's decision, and
renewed her request for Embassy assistance, this time asking
for help in the safeguarding and testing of evidence. End
PM Goes Public
Â¶3. (C) Nicole Sylvester, the President of the St. Vincent and
the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA), told PolOff
she filed a private criminal prosecution for the counts of
rape and indecent assault on her client's behalf on January
31, 2008 (reftel). Within hours of filing the case, the
Prime Minister's office issued a press release denying all
charges and labeling the accusation as politically motivated.
The Prime Minister's press release identified the accuser by
name, even though Sylvester had filed the charges privately
in an attempt to protect her client's identity, and claimed
that she had not released any information to the media. The
accuser (a police officer) was subsequently transferred out
of the Special Services Unit (SSU) and is currently on sick
End of the Saga?
Â¶4. (U) Following a week of media hype and public speculation,
the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Colin Williams
(also an important Embassy contact), announced on February
4th that he had taken over the case and determined that it
should be "discontinued". He cited the accuser's failure to
provide a written statement to police, multiple
inconsistencies in her oral statements and statements by
witnesses, and the lack of forensic evidence, as leading to
Â¶5. (C) In a private phone conversation with PolOff, Williams
elaborated that in addition to the contradictions in the
accuser's oral statements, she did not actually allege rape
until twenty days after the alleged incident on January 3rd.
In addition, Williams noted that the accuser is known to have
made allegations against supervisors in two previous jobs
(with Immigration both in St. Vincent and on Union island),
which were both deemed to lack substance.
Â¶6. (C) The police officer's lawyer, Nicole Sylvester, told
PolOff via TelCon that she is considering requesting
"judicial review" of the DPP's decision, which means a
magistrate would review the DPP's actions in the case and
decide if he erred and the case should continue. According
to Sylvester, the Chief Magistrate in the case, Simone Young,
intimated to her that she too was the subject of intimidation
and "pressure," and confided in Sylvester, "I may lose my
job" (if she rules the case be continued). Sylvester further
claimed that the DPP refused to grant her access to the
witness statements, and only asked for a written statement
from the accuser after the charges had already been filed.
While Ms. Sylvester stated she enjoys a good working
relationship with the DPP, she speculated that he was under
enormous pressure from high-level officials to take over and
dismiss the case.
Â¶7. (C) In the original telephone conversation with PolOff on
January 31st (reftel), Sylvester mentioned that the police
had demanded her client turn in the uniform she was wearing
at the time of the alleged incident, but that she had
intentionally handed over the wrong uniform to police.
Sylvester told PolOff on February 5th that she still has the
uniform in question, which presumably contains forensic
evidence that would support her client's claim of rape.
Sylvester reiterated that both she and her client do not
believe that the evidence can be trusted with SVG
authorities, and asked for USG assistance in transporting the
evidence out of the country and in having it tested (Note: To
do so would break the "chain of custody" and it is unlikely
that any independent laboratory would be willing to test the
samples. End note.)
Â¶8. (C) COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST: Considering that the
accuser has refused to provide a written statement and has
even withheld critical evidence, the DPP's decision appears
fair and reasonable. The Prime Minister's decision to
release the name of the alleged victim/accuser raises
additional concerns, and shows the general lack of
sensitivity surrounding victim's rights in rape cases in the
region. Given Post's experience with law enforcement
officials in SVG, it is difficult to determine whether
Sylvester's concerns of the possible evidence-tampering are
valid or not. Post seeks Department guidance on this latest
request for Embassy assistance, and also talking points in
the event that the requests being made for Embassy assistance
become public. END COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST.