The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called on law enforcement authorities in Trinidad and Tobago “to fully investigate and prosecute” those responsible for the murder of prominent Senior Counsel, Dana Seetahal.
Seetahal, a former state prosecutor and magistrate, was shot and killed on May 4 as she made her way home from a casino.
The body of the 58-year-old former president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago was cremated last Thursday.
The IACHR said it appeared Seetahal’s murder could be linked to her work as prosecutor in several high profile cases.
“The IACHR calls to mind that it is the State’s obligation to proactively investigate acts of this nature and punish intellectual and material authors. In particular, the Commission calls the State of Trinidad and Tobago to conduct an investigation that takes into account whether Seetahal’s murder was committed in retaliation for her work as a prosecutor.
“The Commission also urges the State of Trinidad and Tobago to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to life, integrity, and safety of human rights defenders in the country, particularly of justice operators,” the IACHR said.
The IACHR, an autonomous body of the Organisation of American States (OAS), said it also “notes that an assault against a justice operator because of his or her functions is a particularly serious matter, not just because it is assault upon a justice operator’s person but also because it has the effect of intimidating and instilling fear, which can spread to other justice operators.
“The risk is that cases involving human rights violations could go unpunished,” it said, adding “in this sense, acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that every human being must enjoy, but also seek to undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless.
“The work of human rights defenders is essential to building a solid and enduring democratic society, as they play a leading role in the pursuit of the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.”