JFJ Press Release: Jamaicans for Justice presents five questions for Minister of National Security Peter Bunting…

Jamaicans for Justice presents five questions for Minister of National Security Peter Bunting to answer in his Sectoral Debate contribution on May 13.

Sunday, May 12, 2014 – Kingston, Jamaica – Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) takes seriously the obligation to require government officials to report on proposed policies and plans, to evaluate government’s performance on commitments made, and to hold the government accountable on these. As a result, JFJ is especially interested in Minister of National Security Peter Bunting’s Sectoral Debate presentation in which he’ll report to the nation on his past year’s actions and accomplishments on commitments with substantial human rights implications that he made during prior debates, and on the Minister’s policies and plans to address vital citizens’ security issues.

Five questions for Minister Bunting :

1. How does the Minister hold the Commissioner of Police and Divisional Commanders accountable for the use of lethal force?
In 2012 Minister Bunting made this commitment in Parliament: “This administration will be holding the Commissioner of Police and the High Command accountable for a reduction in the level of police fatal shootings.”

Two years later the Minister is duty bound to provide the nation with specific information on actions he has taken to hold the Commissioner and JCF Divisional Commanders accountable for the use of lethal force and the results of such action.

2. How will the Minister support strengthening INDECOM’s role in the pursuit of police accountability?
The INDECOM Act is currently being reviewed. This provides Minister Bunting with a “can’t miss” opportunity to support policy and legislative changes that strengthen INDECOM’s autonomy and powers. In furthering police accountability Minister Bunting is obliged to commit on undertaking this vital initiative.

3. What is the comprehensive plan for the juvenile justice system which includes ending the practice of keeping children in police lockups and inappropriate facilities?
The cumulative effect of critical incidents in juvenile institutions and civil society advocacy has resulted in reduced numbers of children being housed in correctional and remand centers. However, ad hoc, operational changes, without an expressed vision and overarching plan, has resulted in systemic inefficiencies that squander resources, and in the warehousing of children in harmful conditions without adequate support systems. Therefore, Minister Bunting is obliged to present his Ministry’s vision for juvenile justice and a comprehensive reform plan that includes protecting the rights of children who enter the justice system and provides the children with adequate services including access to education.

4. What is the Minister’s proposed timeline to review the Corrections Act?
The rights of children in children’s homes and places of safety are clearly stated in legislation however the rights of children in correctional and remand centers are not affirmatively expressed. Additionally, comprehensive operational regulations for juvenile facilities do not exist. As a result, administrators at various centers regularly make up their own ad hoc procedures, some of which violate the rights of children and harm them in various ways.

These policy and legislative gaps require Minister Bunting to initiate setting the legislative framework that governs correctional and remand centers’ operations, establishes the rights of children who interact with the system, and protects the children from harm during time spent in these institutions. Therefore, Minister Bunting should commit to reviewing the Corrections Act in this legislative year.

5. Will Horizon Adult Remand Centre and Fort Augusta Adult Remand and Correctional Centre be de-gazetted as institutions to keep children?
In 2013 Minister Bunting rightly removed the female population that was inappropriately housed with adults in these centers but he did not de-gazette them as juvenile facilities. In July 2013 the Minister committed to de-gazetting these adult facilities “long before” the end of 2013. However, for over the past 6 months boys have been kept at Horizon Adult Remand Centre without access to appropriate support including to adequate education. Minister Bunting must require the immediate removal of boys from Horizon and keep his commitment to de-gazette adult institutions as facilities in which children can be housed.