JFJ RESPONDS TO ANNOUNCEMENT OF COMMISSIONERS AND TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR THE UPCOMING COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY INTO MATTERS RELATED TO EVENTS IN WESTERN KINGSTON IN 2010
Thursday, February 27, 2014, Kingston, Jamaica – Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) welcomes the announcement of the Commissioners and Terms of Reference (TOR) for the upcoming Commission of Enquiry into the events in Western Kingston in May 2010. We see this as another step forward in the process, and remain committed to the holding of a thorough,effective and sober Commission of Enquiry as a part of the process of getting to the truth of and obtaining justice for the events of that horrendous time.
While we appreciate the process of consultation around the drafting of the TOR, and note a number of changes which strengthened them, we have a number of remaining concerns.
We note that some of the TOR have now been reworded in a more neutral manner than in the draft document, and that two TOR – (k) & (l) – have been added regarding the chain of command for the security force operations. We also note that the TOR dealing with the breach of rights – (j) – now goes further to specify enquiry into “whose rights were violated, and the manner and extent of such violations, and by whom such violations were perpetrated”.
However,we are disappointed with the published TOR for a number of reasons, including the following:
· They do not spell out the allegations of human rights violations (which include allegations of extrajudicial killings/violations of the right to life), giving clear mandate to the Commission to find out the truth about these allegations.This is in contrast to the number of TOR which refer to specific allegations regarding actions of civilians – (b), (c), (e), (f).
· There are no TOR specifying enquiry into allegations of missing persons or circumstances and conditions of detention, two areas of wide public concern at the time and since.
· Although TOR (d) refers to enquiry into the conduct of the operations by the security forces, it does not require enquiry into the planning and oversight of these operations, both of which are important aspects of understanding the events of the period.
· There is no specification of the need for the security operations to be assessed in the framework of Jamaica’s international obligations and accepted international standards for the use of force.
· There is no TOR which requires enquiry into whether assistance was requested of,and/or provided by any foreign state or agency, and if so, the nature of such assistance.
· The TOR dealing with compensation – (q) – deals with past compensation only; no reference is made to the possibility of future compensation.
· There are no TOR requiring the Commission to make any recommendations or to refer any evidence suggesting criminal liability to the relevant State agencies for further action.
JFJ intends to seek further opportunity for engagement on the inclusion of these matters in areas to be enquired into by the Commission.
The Commissioners who have been appointed have levels of experience and skill which would enable them to conduct a thorough enquiry. However, the concerns now being raised about the appropriateness of the appointment of Ms Velma Hylton,QC, given her involvement in the 2002 Commission of Enquiry, must be addressed,as they can affect the confidence placed in the Commission of Enquiry.
As a society, we need to remain engaged in this process of enquiry into the events that caused the largest loss of life at the hands of the State since the Morant Bay Rebellion. Families and communities were traumatized, and we, as a nation, cannot move forward without the uncovering of the truth, without accountability and without justice.