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JAMAICA | Countless Cases of Unlawful Treatment in St. James under State of Emergency

Featured A young man being taken into custody by soldiers in St James under the state of public emergency. A young man being taken into custody by soldiers in St James under the state of public emergency.
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, November 24, 2018 - Jamaica's Public Defender, Arlene Harrison-Henry is not impressed with the manner in which the State of Emergency (SOE) is being administered in St. James. She says there are countless cases of complaints of unlawful treatment by detainees and their families since the SOE was launched in St. James on January 18, 2018.

In her report to Parliament last week, Harrison-Henry said  that residents of St. James are being taken off the streets randomly and without legal basis, with many of them not being charged. This included more than 100 children.

Of the 3687 detainees who were 'scraped' up by the security forces since the implementation of the State of Emergency, only 187 or 3% were charged or taken up for outstanding warrants and 3500 were released.

The Public Defender criticized the 'net fishing' approach by the security forces in relation to the wholesale detention of primarily young men from certain communities, many of whom spend an average of a four days to a week in jail being processed by their captors.

Arlene HarrisonHenry 460
Public Defender Mrs. Arlene Harrison Henry says her Montego Bay office has stopped counting the number of complaints by detainees and their families regarding unlawful treatment under the State of Public Emergency in St. James.

Harrison Henry appeared before the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament last week, to give details of the Office of the Public Defender's (OPD's) findings into the state of affairs in St James under the SOE.

She claimed that “very little thought, if any”, was given to the processing, accommodation, health and well-being of detainees. Processing includes photographing and finger printing and possibly DNA sampling.

“Absolutely no arrangement was put in place for the handling of detainees,” the public defender stated.

Harrison Henry said her team had found that family members were not informed about the status of their loved ones who were detained, and complained bitterly about a lack of information from the police.

She said that while some officers assisted in providing information or made calls for detainees to inform their families that they were locked up, there was a largely cavalier attitude displayed by the police, made worse with each extension of the emergency measure.

Henry told the parliament that there seemed to be uncertainty as to the operational command and administrative command, on the part of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

She said at the time of her office's first visit to Freeport Police Station in late January 2018, the St James divisional commander, Senior Superintendent Wilfred Campbell, told her that the police had no responsibility for apprehending anybody. “That, he said, was the role and responsibility of the JDF, and that the JCF was only responsible for the keeping of persons detained by the JDF and sent them to police… Even if the senior superintendent was to be believed, his understanding was entirely inconsistent with the execution of the operation, and indeed with that which was transpiring on the ground,” the report said.

The Public Defender's report said it surmised that Campbell's approach had set the tone for the treatment of people held in the police lock-ups in the parish.

She said her Montego Bay office had stopped counting the number of complaints by detainees and their families regarding unlawful treatment under the State of Public Emergency in St. James, and pointed out that there would be a massive cost to the government if her office pursued all the complaints. 
 
"The fact of the matter is that potentially, if every detainee wanted the Office of the Public Defender to say, 'Was I unlawfully detained? Can I bring a case against government?'... I couldn't call the figure the way it is large," she said.

“This dominant uncertainty led to the police at the divisional level adopting the posture that they, the police, were mere keepers of persons detained, and that was the extent of their responsibility. So poor was the logistics and ill-prepared were the authorities that in an attempt to alleviate the overcrowding of the lock-ups in St James, a truckload of male detainees was transported to St Andrew."

"They were supposed to have been accommodated at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre facility… however, when the truck arrived at 'Horizon' the Department of Corrections denied any knowledge of such arrangement and indeed had no place prepared for that influx of detainees,” the report said. “In the end, the truck had to turn around and return to Montego Bay without a soul disembarking.

Legal Officer at Jamaicans For Justice, John Clarke, in an interview with Radio Jamaica, said that the authorities must insist that the provisions of the law are followed by the police.

Mr. Clarke complained that these infringements should not have taken place, especially where the regulations are clear on what procedures should be adopted. He is pushing for more accountability in the process and a tightening of the systems now in operation. 
 
"The government's response should be to first study this report, one, and two, ensure that the relevant persons who are in charge of the detention centres within the State of Public Emergency and the Zone of Special Operations are reminded of the law."

"They need to ensure that the Tribunal is working and working well, the JPs need to be reminded of their role and they need to ensure that a rigorous system is in place to ensure that processing takes place within 24 hours that persons who need not be detained are released," Clarke declared.

 
 

 

Last modified onMonday, 26 November 2018 07:09
  • Countries: Jamaica

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