by Kathrina Dabdoub
May 23, 2020 marks ten years since a State of Emergency (SOE) was declared, and over 1,000 members of the Jamaica security forces were deployed in and around the communities of Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town. In the aftermath, upwards of 70 persons were reportedly killed; at least 3 disappeared, and approximately 4,000 were arbitrarily detained. What began as a hunt for one man’s extradition, in a matter of days became a State-led massacre that has affected hundreds of lives permanently. It is one of the greatest atrocities our country has witnessed.
The aimless violence and abuse that Tivoli and Denham Town communities endured at the hands of the State is the result of historical (and sustained) de facto criminalisation. Ten years later, we are far from a resolution.
The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry
Calls for the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry were made as early as the first week of the dubbed “Tivoli Incursion.” Yet, a Commission was not appointed until February 21, 2014, with hearings beginning on December 1, 2014. By this time, an enquiry was nearly 5 years delayed.
The Commission Report tabled in Parliament and was made public on June 15, 2016. In the report, it was found that many of the allegations of personal injury, property damage or loss, and extrajudicial killings by the security forces were largely credible.
Ultimately, the report had weak and open-ended conclusions. Of note is the common refrain “Further investigation is required” throughout the document. Despite this, the Commission made extensive recommendations for redress and prevention, including:
- A State apology
- Counselling for victims
- Internal administrative reviews within the security forces
- Strengthened oversight of policing operations, namely via the use of body cameras and various policy reforms
The recommendations notably did not include the prosecution of individual perpetrators. In fact, the Commission stopped short of explicitly