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Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) recognises the significance of Friday’s landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court.  Through this judgment the learned judges of the Supreme Court have presented us with a stark reminder that the Constitution of Jamaica is the supreme law of the land and exists to protect the rights of all Jamaicans.

JFJ wishes to reiterate that the judgment should not be considered a win or a loss for the parties involved in the court proceedings. The Court’s decision provides an opportunity for the government to redraft the legislation to comply with the human rights requirements of Jamaica’s Constitution using a truly inclusive, participatory approach. 

We have been, and continue to be supportive of the concept of a national identification system that is technologically advanced, respectful of individuals’ rights to privacy and is compliant with the Constitution and human rights principles. Such an ID system would have immeasurable benefits to the citizenry by aiding in development planning and the provision of services.  

Recommendations moving forward

We believe it is in the national interest to seek consensus and national ownership in undertaking the major initiative of redrafting the National Identification and Registration Act. As such, we strongly encourage that widespread public consultations be facilitated and that a Joint Select Committee of parliament be established to facilitate substantive input from all interested persons. 

Given that the National Identification System (NIDS) presents both new opportunities and new risks due to the unique sensitivity of the information it may collect, it is of utmost importance that Jamaica firstestablish a strong legal framework for the protection of personal data before implementing any version of NIDS. We continue to encourage the government to prioritize the finalization of the Data Protection Bill – for which Joint Select Committee was convened but has now stalled. NIDS will continue to face scrutiny until a Data Protection Law is in effect. 

JFJ participated in the drafting processes for both NIRA and its Regulations, and gained an appreciation of the obstacles faced with completing both processes independent of each other. Accordingly, we recommend that redrafting of any Act be done in tandem with the Regulations to ensure clarity, cohesion and fluidity in their development. 

JFJ continues to offer its assistance in the drafting process and will continue to aid in the inclusion of relevant civil society groups towards the successful completion of the redrafting process. We firmly believe that an inclusive and consultative process, bolstered by a supportive legal framework will result in a robust and constitutionally compliant Act.

Click the following for additional coverage on JFJ and NIDS