Dear Justice Minister Mark Golding, Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, et al.
I write on behalf of the Tivoli Committee to raise certain questions in relation to the government’s planned commission of enquiry (COE) into the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre.
First of all, we strongly believe that the question of the State’s responsibility for criminal property damage (including theft), and physical injuries inflicted upon residents by the security forces should be the subject of a separate enquiry.
Term of reference (Q) which seeks to find out whether “monies, benefits or compensation were provided by the State to compensate residents of Western Kingston including Tivoli Gardens” is redundant since the present government is in possession of documents which show that the Bruce Golding government accepted State liability by paying out $90 million for funeral grants, market damage, personal property damage etc. to some residents.
We believe that in order to properly determine the remaining number of affected residents (not excluding those who were inadequately compensated), requires extensive interviews, factual verification, and the cross checking of ministry and other data. Such an exercise cannot be properly carried out by an Enquiry which has time limits and which is tasked with unearthing information, among other things, on those responsible for the massacre of so many people.
If it has been detected that there was any irregularity in payments made, the government has the administrative and other means at its disposal to get to bottom of the matter. This is an involved process. And it supports our point of view that this investigation should be done separately, and speedily, to address the suffering being experienced by affected residents.
In addition, the question of compensating those who suffered injuries from security forces sniper fire, and indiscriminate firing of JDF mortar (a criminal act) should, we believe, be addressed and be part of this separate investigation.
We trust that you will recognize the wisdom of this suggestion and make the necessary changes.
Furthermore, we believe that the terms of reference are not in accordance with holding accountable those who had effective command responsibility for the massacre.
As we have publicly stated on numerous occasions, we believe that the two main civilian commanders — former prime minister Bruce Golding and former minister of national security Dwight Nelson, and the security forces commanders Major General Stuart Saunders and police commissioner Owen Ellington — bear overwhelming responsibility and should be the main target of the enquiry. This approach is needed in keeping with established international law precepts on command responsibility.
Finally, we believe that the government should give an undertaking to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court to make a determination based on the evidence unearthed by the enquiry as to whether these individuals have criminal charges to answer under international criminal law.
It is not too late to make the necessary adjustments to the terms of reference both in relation to the matter of compensation and criminal liability.
In addition, we also urge that any commissioner appointed to replace Velma Hylton, should be someone with experience in international criminal law and human rights laws. Otherwise, even with impressive credentials, commissioners without such requisite experience will be unable to address the full scope of what transpired in 2010.
We look forward to your response and the opportunity to engage in dialogue.
NEARLY 150 years after an unsuccessful attempt to put British Governor John Eyre on trial for his command responsibility (“high crimes and misdemeanours”) for the 1865 Morant Bay massacre, there is a similar challenge today in terms of applying the same legal principles to those who bear command responsibility for the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre.
Governor Eyre declared martial law in Morant Bay and sent British troops into the area where they executed hundreds of people and committed untold acts of brutality. The Jamaica Committee (comprised of English liberals, including John Mills and Charles Darwin) made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to have Eyre tried under existing British law.
Needless to say international law on the culpability of those who have command responsibility for military operations (including civilian commanders) has evolved and become far more explicit. German and Japanese generals were tried for war crimes after the end of the Second World War. And case law now exists in terms of experiences with Yugoslavia (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia –ICTY) and Rwanda (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda — ICTR).
In 2010 Bruce Golding’s government declared a state of emergency in Tivoli Gardens west Kingston and sent in the security forces resulting in the massacre of 73 to 200 people; barbaric acts of torture and brutality were committed against the residents. Under international law these are classified as crimes against humanity.
From Morant Bay to Tivoli Gardens not much has changed in Jamaica in terms of such types of massacres being used to terrorize the poor in pursuit of political objectives.
Eyre was protected from prosecution because he was a white English man defending the interests of a racist, imperialist system, against black, colonial subjects. Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, head of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Stuart Saunders, and Minister of National Security, Dwight Nelson, are today being protected by the same colonial legal system that operates on behalf of a supposedly independent State in mortal combat with poor, inner city residents.
Despite decades of impunity for police extrajudicial killings, there is still a lack of appreciation among many, including human rights activists and the media, that these crimes committed by individual soldiers and police are only possible because they are sanctioned, and sometimes ordered by the command of the security forces, including the political directorate (without regard to party colour).
The convenient cover for murder and massacre in Jamaica is the “shootout” — the code word to be invoked in order to get automatic State protection.
The emergence of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) post-May 2010 (demanded by human rights bodies), supposedly to carry out independent investigations of security forces killings (though I would argue that it is also to draw attention away from police killings as a State policy), has been neither a deterrent to the killings nor a basis upon which to bring about convictions. It is fair to say that police killings are just as brazen and the rate has escalated since the creation of INDECOM.
When there is a police killing, for example, the security forces command structure, which is solidly behind the policy, is two steps ahead of INDECOM in terms of facilitating the concoction of statements within the death squads. There is also the question of whether there is collaboration, in some cases, between INDECOM investigators (some of whom are former police officers) and the police itself. There is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that this happens. This is a serious matter that requires a public enquiry.
And then there is the matter of disturbing the crime scene — which is a routine occurrence. The typical practice, after so-called shootouts, is for the police take the body to the hospital to save its life. In Brazil, where there is a similar problem with extrajudicial killings, the authorities have taken a revolutionary position, which is that the security forces must leave the body to be taken in by an ambulance. As a consequence, police killings have been reduced by 40%. INDECOM, on the other hand, is conveniently wedded to the ruse that the police take bodies to the hospital to save lives rather than to tamper with the evidence. Some would argue that the body is being taken away to ensure that it is dead on arrival. (During the Tivoli operations the opposite practice was to let bodies rot in the streets.)
Besides concocting statements, removing dead bodies, picking up spent shells, planting guns (“sweeties”), constructing shootout scenes, there are other important aspects to the impunity policy which include a reluctant and incompetent Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), and a judiciary with a pro-police bias. Space does not allow for elaboration.
The greater implication for this policy of impunity, however, is that there is no limit or restraint on the massacres which can be perpetrated by the State because there is no law which holds commanders qua commanders responsible for the criminal acts of those who they command.
For example, before the blood had dried in Tivoli Gardens, the then minister of national security, Dwight Nelson, was proudly referring to the Tivoli operations as a template for other inner city communities. The PNP’s Peter Bunting, who was then opposition spokesman on national security, had no quarrel with the brutality which was perpetrated in Tivoli. Within a year, after becoming Nelson’s successor, he too would be positively pointing to the ‘Tivoli paradigm’ as a way to reduce the murder rate.
The role of civilian commanders in facilitating security forces abuse cannot therefore be ignored. And given public concern over the high murder rate, and the calls for action to be taken, it requires no great stretch of the imagination to believe that sooner or later there will be another massacre, perhaps of even greater proportion than Tivoli. Again, in order to achieve political objectives.
The Tivoli Gardens massacre also shows how the impunity process works in one very important area. For reasons that seem obvious, the police took the decision not to carry out any investigation of what happened. Without such investigation the DPP can prosecute no one. Police investigation is the first requirement of Jamaican judicial due process. In other words, if the police is not interested in investigating, it is equivalent to saying that the massacre did not happen. No one has asked the police commissioner to explain this decision. This was tantamount to giving himself a free pass despite the stench of blood hanging over his head. This is a significant deficiency in the Jamaican politico-judicial system.
Not even the prime minister could be relied upon as a counter weight to the police commissioner because he refused to challenge the police commissioner’s handling of the operation. No doubt because he also had questions to answer himself. Instead he enabled the commissioner’s treacherous act by calling upon the Public Defender to investigate, knowing full well that the Public Defender was not set up or equipped to carry out criminal investigations of this magnitude. The Public Defender would in turn demonstrate his compliance and lack of independence by recommending a Commission of Enquiry (COE).
Nearly four years after, this COE has not taken place, even if one is imminent. Space does not allow for analysis of the timidity shown by the Public Defender in not carrying out an investigation, which he had the power to do, into the role of the prime minister, the minister of national security and heads of the security forces in the massacre. This he cowardly left for others to do. This speaks volumes to the point we make in conclusion that a just resolution of this matter properly resides in an outside investigation.
The same scenario was played out in 2001 when the police massacred over 27 people in the same Tivoli Gardens area. The police carried out no investigation and while there was a COE, it predictably resulted in no criminal charges being levelled against anyone.
The convening of a COE, as is now being planned, is merely designed to ‘go through the motions’. (There is no point in getting into the current distraction created by one appointed commissioner who revealed her pro-police bias in the 2001 enquiry. This is normal bias where the police is concerned.) The major point is that COEs can only make administrative “recommendations” which the government is not legally obliged to accept.
The COE would be unable to recommend criminal charges for any individual soldier or policeman, even if they were so inclined, since the evidentiary challenge is next to impossible. That is why the victorious “Allies” went after German and Japanese military commanders after the war, not individual soldiers.
The evidence is far more compelling where the Tivoli commanders are concerned and had the terms of reference been framed to specifically enquire into their command responsibility it would be far more likely to hold them accountable.
But even such a recommendation would have no legal weight under Jamaican laws, because as was said above, Jamaican laws have not been updated in keeping with the evolution of international legal concept on the role commanders in the commission of crimes against humanity. This would require the specific involvement of the International Criminal Court as the Tivoli Committee has recommended.
Jamaica and the ICC
In 2001 Jamaica signed but did not ratify the Rome Statute of the International Court. It is only under international law that Jamaican commanders can be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and thus far, for obvious reasons, this Statute has never been ratified into Jamaican law. But, by having signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, the government can under Article 12(3) give the ICC jurisdiction over the Tivoli matter. The government has chosen, however, to turn a deaf ear to this demand as reflected in its lack of response to a petition signed by two thousand Tivoli west Kingston residents demanding ICC involvement. The media and other public commentators have been silent on this point as well.
The present minister of justice, Mark Golding, has admitted that Cabinet has given approval for laws to be drafted so that the Statute can be ratified, but is unable or unwilling to give any time line as to when this will happen. Nor has he sought to publicize this important decision in order to promote public discussion.
Let us therefore outline the command responsibility charges against the commanders.
Bruce Golding as prime minister, minister of defence, head of the Defence Board, and member of parliament for Tivoli/west Kingston, would have been instrumental in having his Cabinet approve the State of Emergency declared in west Kingston in May 2010. He would have consulted with the police commissioner, the head of the Jamaica Defence Force and certainly the minister of national security, who holds portfolio responsibility for the police force. Golding admits that he was advised by the security forces of the need to declare a state of emergency to deal with the alleged threat to the state.
Golding would have been aware or should have been aware of the military plans. He has publicly admitted that he requested a surveillance plane from the US in order to get an understanding of what was happening on the ground in Tivoli Gardens. He therefore would have been in a position to assess what was an appropriate response to the “threat”. Given the history of security forces abuse in Tivoli Gardens, he had a duty to effectively ensure that this was not another excuse for brutality. He admits that he received daily reports from the heads of the security forces. He saw no need to raise any questions with them, despite media reports, and residents in Tivoli Gardens claiming to have called him by phone asking him to put a stop to the atrocities.
There is a report that he received an emotional appeal from a Cabinet member as to the atrocities being committed once they started. Golding had a legal obligation to stop the massacre. The evidence suggests that he did nothing. The JDF through Colonel Rocky Meade, said no request for any change of plans was received from Golding and they would have complied had any such request been received. Golding‘s most significant statement to the residents of Tivoli Gardens since the massacre, was that ‘what happened could not have been avoided!”
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington had effective control over the police force. He was involved in the planning of the operation, certainly from the police side. He admitted on a television interview that the planning was in progress for months. Ellington was aware that citizens distrusted the police based on previous acts of brutality; that barricades were being constructed precisely because of this distrust and because there was an expected “incursion.” Several statements were issued by Ellington’s office to the effect that the people’s human rights would be respected. This turned out not to be the case. Ellington has recently admitted that certain “regrettable” things happened even though within hours of the operation he congratulated the police on a professional job, well done. The police force has neither investigated nor does it appear that Ellington has done his own internal investigation as demanded by INDECOM. Ellington cannot evade responsibility for the conduct of the police. The ICC must be allowed to decide his fate.
Major General Stuart Saunders
As is the case with Golding and Ellington, Saunders participated in the planning of the operation. Soldiers under his command are alleged to have carried out extrajudicial killings; destruction of property; theft; torture. Mortar was fired in a residential area destroying buildings, killing and maiming civilians. The use of mortar against civilians is a war crime. The JDF refused to cooperate with the Public Defender in his investigation. There is no indication that the JDF has disciplined any of its soldiers. The ICC must be allowed to decide his fate as well.
Dwight Nelson was a member of the Defence Board. He was minister in charge of the police force. He was responsible for policy and therefore a civilian commander. He had a duty to be briefed on all the plans for the attack. He had an equal duty to ensure that the security forces did only what was legally required. He had a duty to be apprised of what was happening on the ground, as the prime minister was. He had a duty to ensure that there was no mass killings or abuse of human rights. On the face of the evidence Dwight Nelson not only failed to carry out his duties and by claiming that Tivoli was a template for other inner cities, and other such inflammatory statements, shows that he gave unwavering and unquestioning support to the security forces. He should be investigated by the ICC along with the others mentioned above.
The government in collusion with the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party is set to hold a COE which promises to be an administrative whitewash which cannot result in any criminal prosecution. Apart from the Tivoli Committee there is no section of civil society which is demanding the involvement of the ICC — not even Jamaicans For Justice or Amnesty International. This is a serious indictment of the role being played by these supposed human rights organizations in terms of facilitating the impunity process.
The Tivoli Committee therefore invites all who are swayed by the arguments presented in this analysis to join us in continuing to expose the government’s and the opposition’s whitewash plans; to oppose impunity for the criminal massacre of so many innocent people.
A just resolution of the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre cannot be entrusted to a dysfunctional justice system and a brutal Jamaican state.
Join us therefore in demanding that the Portia Simpson Miller government agree to give jurisdiction over the investigation of the massacre to the ICC, and if it refuses, to stand condemned for facilitating the most eggregious act of state terrorism since independence.
Please contact us to pledge your support.
Police Commissioner Owen Ellington is on record as welcoming an investigation by INDECOM into allegations by a present and former police officer that there are death squads within the police force.
INDECOM has yet to publicly respond to the call from Jamaican citizens for there to be such an investigation. This investigation is long overdue and the fact that it has not happened is scandalous in a country where citizens are told that they are governed by the rule of law.
INDECOM as we all know was set up in response to decades of allegations of police extrajudicial killings by Jamaican citizens, Jamaican human rights organizations, foreign human rights organizations, and foreign governments, primarily the United States and the UK, including the main United Nations human rights body, and in this hemisphere, the IACHR.
The fact though is that INDECOM has one major shortcoming which is that it does not have the power to prosecute and so it must contend with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions which historically has been reluctant to prosecute police officers, or if it prosecutes, to prosecute in a vigorous way.
INDECOM has come under tremendous pressure from all ranks of the police force, including the police commissioner, and it would be naive to believe that they have not been intimidated. It is no secret that the current minister of national security would like to see INDECOM’s powers curbed, not enhanced because of his pro-police stance.
The ball is therefore in INDECOM’s court. The INDECOM Act gives Commissioner Terrence Williams the power to hold any public enquiry which he sees fit. Commissioner Williams cannot therefore resile from going forward with what is manifestly and historically required of him.
Indeed, it would show weakness and cowardice were this to be a behind the scenes enquiry, limited to death squads. There is need for a broad public enquiry into the practice, nay the policy as it really is, of police extrajudicial killings. To enquire into the policy would demonstrate to the public how all sections of the State collude, beginning with the prime minister, the minister of national security, and the judiciary to facilitate this practice and to provide impunity.
It would represent a truly democratic way of ending a bad policy and moving forward with a new one that is popular and supported by all citizens.
Nothing less is required because as it stands a State which does not respect the constitutionally guaranteed right to life of its citizens is illegitimate. Almost four years after the horrendous Tivoli Gardens massacre the State has given no indication that it is ready to resolve this matter. And as already been demanded by the Tivoli Committee, unless the International Criminal Court is involved, any other type of enquiry can only result at best with an administrative rap on the knuckles — not with the perpetrators and the commanders of the massacre being held legally accountable.
The country is therefore at a cross roads where this issue is concerned. If INDECOM does not act decisively and with courage it would have confirmed both negatively (for those who sense its weaknesses and rationale of existence) and positively (for those who want it to be that way) that it is a tool of the State doing its instinctive best to hold intact the circle of impunity for the State policy of extrajudicial killings.
If that is the case then INDECOM has proven itself to be irrelevant as far as citizens being able to protect themselves from criminal acts by the State.
Movement to end Jamaica police extrjudicial kilings
Open letter to police commisisoner Owen Ellington: Step aside to allow INDECOM probe of police extrajudicial killings
Dear Police Commissioner Owen Ellington,
(1) Over the years that you have been police commissioner, you have consistently denied the allegations of systematic police extrajudicial killings. Most recently you and your deputy categorically denied that “death squads” exist within the JCF. Nonetheless, even as you encouraged those officers with information about death squads to come forward with the information you called those cowards who made the claim in an interview with a Gleaner reporter. This is contradictory and seems to be a form of intimidation.
(2) Question: Would you apprise the public as to how you know that death squads do not exist within the JCF?
(4) Presumably you would have carried out investigations prior to the latest public allegations of death squads. Would you therefore provide the public not only with details of the investigations which you carried out but the reasoning which lead you to accept the validity of those investigations, that there are no death squads?
(3) In its 2012 report, INDECOM highlighted the fact that there were several policemen who committed multiple killings resulting from “shootouts” — some as high as ten. Does this statistic strike you as merely coincidental or does it suggest that these are examples of designated killers within the police force? How did this statistic of multiple killers factor into your conclusion that there are no death squads?
(5) In early 2012 you categorically denied on the radio programme The Breakfast Club that extrajudicial killings exist. Within a short time, however, after a public outcry over the killing of 12 people within a week including a young girl and an old man, you changed your tune and is reported as having admitted that there have been “unnecessary and oftentimes unwarranted” police killings. When you earlier denied extrajudicial killings were you then unaware of “unnecessary and oftentimes unwarranted killings”?
(6) Do you think that these flip flops undermine your credibility and have caused the public to conclude that that you are deliberately trying to mislead and cannot be trusted to tell the truth?
(7) As part of trying to win back public trust you also said that you would be holding senior police commanders accountable for these “unnecessary and oftentimes unwarranted killings”? Can you now report to the public what you have done to hold these commanders accountable for “unnecessary and oftentimes unwarranted killings”?
(7) Your reaction to the January 2014 Orange Villa killing was that once the murder rate goes down the police killing rate will also go down. Is there a direct correlation between the two? Do you accept that the implication of that statement is that police are carrying out extrajudicial killings in order to reduce the murder rate? Given that your credibility is on the line, and that there is a public perception that you are trying to cover up what appears to be a police policy of committing extrajudicial killings, would you please elaborate on this statement?
(8) Another comment made by you in reaction to the Orange Villa killing was that the police were engaged in over 600 shootouts during 2013! Would you please provide the public with documentation regarding these killings. And does this 600 number include the 258 questionable killings that took place in 2013?
(9) Have you as yet done an assessment of the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre? Was this submitted to INDECOM? As the supreme commander of this operation do you accept ultimate responsibility for the allegations of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and criminal destruction of people’s property? Are you prepared to cooperate with any probe by the International Criminal Court which the government might sanction?
(10) Finally, though you are reported as welcoming an INDECOM probe into the allegations of police death squads, do you support the broader position of the Movement to end Jamaica Police Extrajudicial Killings that INDECOM should make this a Public Enquiry not only into the allegations of police death squads, but what appears to be a state policy of police extrajudicial killings? If you support this demand (and we believe that you should for the sake of your own integrity and in order to clear up the public impression of your role in this sordid affair) — would you be prepared to resign or at least go on leave in order to facilitate transparency and the fulsome enquiry that is required? We hope you will agree.
Campaign for Social and Economic Justice
Movement to end Jamaica Police Extrajudicial Killings
In response to the anger of the people in downtown Kingston over the killing of a man by the police, police commissioner Owen Ellington said (a) that once civilian killings go down, police killings, like what happened in Orange Street will be reduced , and (b) that the police were fired at or involved in 600 shootouts last year!
The police commissioner of course welcomes the investigation by INDECOM which he knows is going nowhere and hence he can give credence to the police story that there was a shootout in downtown Kingston which residents flatly refute.
He went on to give plausible support to this kind of killing by claiming that the police were involved in 600 shootouts last year! In order to prove that he is believable, and in order to refute the impression that he fully supports the police extrajudicial policy, the police commissioner should be asked to publicly provide detailed documentation for the 600 times that the police engaged in shootouts last year?
If these shootouts are contrived (and we already know that almost half or 258 of that number are contrived) then we obviously have a police commissioner who is living in a delusional world. For obvious reasons, he does not appear psychologically fit to be police commissioner. Note that we have not even mentioned the outstanding issue of his command responsibility for the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre which we believe should ultimately be investigated by the International Criminal Court. But then again, this is probably the psychological type that the State requires to hold such a job.
Having set up that scenario of war — statistically worse that what US troops face in Afghanistan — how can we expect the average policeman, much more the designated killers, the death squad killers, not to pull the trigger at will and know that the police force as a whole and senior police officers, including the police commissioner, will come to their defence, and who know what to do in blunting the ineffective and hapless INDECOM.
Does INDECOM employ former policemen and JDF officers — which is not allowed in other similar agencies such as in the United Kingdom? INDECOM should clear the air on this.
The police commissioner said he would welcome an INDECOM probe of the claim that death squads are operating within the police force. Once again we call upon INDECOM to accept that invitation and move to immediately set up a Public Enquiry to investigate not only death squads but the decades-old policy of police extrajudicial killings. Terrence Williams should protect his integrity, and find the courage to move quickly, rather than allow the public to make the judgement that he is a careerist and lacking in personal courage.
The time could not be more ripe. We call upon everyone to support our petition for this enquiry.
by Lloyd D’Aguilar
ON a per capita basis, and for decades, Jamaica has had one of the highest police killing rates in the world. Over that period prime ministers and ministers of national security have made statements supporting these killings thereby giving the stamp of approval of the state at the highest level. In other words, the explanations about rogue cops and untrained policemen are but scapegoats.
In the sixties, for example, prime minister Hugh Shearer exhorted the police to ‘shoot first and ask questions later’. In the seventies Michael Manley presided over the dreaded Suppression of Crimes Act, which gave the police unlimited powers to abuse civil liberties. Dudley Thompson, Manley’s minister of national security at the time, casually stated that ‘no angels’ died in the 1978 massacre of five men at Green Bay, an army firing range. In the eighties under Edward Seaga the killing rate soared to over 318 in one year. In the nineties prime minister PJ Patterson promised to buy hearses for the police so they could pick up the bodies of their victims. The worst record to date is that of Prime Minister Bruce Golding who presided over the 2010 police killing of 73 to 200 people in Tivoli Gardens.
The origins of the policy? Well, the justification has always been that Jamaica also has one of the highest murder rates in the world and, with a dysfunctional justice system, the only way to get rid of these gunmen is to kill them. Whether this idea is supported more among the middle class or working class people is hard to say. But it should be said that in the inner city communities, there have been numerous demonstrations against these type of police killings. Perhaps as many as the number killed. In 2013, for example, the police killed 258 people.
International human rights organizations — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, IACHR, and the US State department — have produced numerous reports condemning the government for doing nothing to stop the killings. There was even a time when the British government temporarily banned sales of weapons to the police for fear that they would be used to kill innocent citizens. Local human rights organizations — Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) and the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights — have also been very vocal in condemning the practice.
After years of being in denial about the killings, government finally set up the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) in 2010 to investigate police killings. Supposedly with an independent investigative body — the police no longer investigating themselves — rogue policemen would be brought before the courts and convicted for violating citizens’ right to life. The result? Police killings have continued unabated, and have increased dramatically especially over the past three years. In its almost four years of existence, INDECOM has not been any more successful in breaking the decades-old drought of not a single policeman being convicted for any of these killings.
The police have fought back against INDECOM. It’s main body, the Jamaica Police Federation, has been very aggressive in expressing its annoyance with INDECOM and have even gone to court to challenge INDECOM’s power to arrest them. Though the Court disagreed with the police, their aggressive tactics seem to have succeeded in intimidating INDECOM. They like the JFJ, against whom the same tactics were employed, now feel compelled to release an obligatory statement of regret each time a police officer is killed. Supposedly this will convince the police that INDECOM like JFJ is not ‘anti-police’.
Things seemed to have reached an impasse — with some commentators like Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne throwing their support behind ‘hard policing’ and the police commissioner Owen Ellington — thanking him for his support. Hard policing is just another euphemism for saying that the police have no option but to kill in order to defeat the gunmen. And the police always maintain, no matter how obvious it is that they deliberately targeted and killed their victim — that it was a ‘shootout.’ The constant refrain, which any high school student is probably able to recite, is that ‘the police came upon a group of men, the men opened fire, the police returned the fire and when the dust cleared one man was found suffering from gunshot wounds and taken to the hospital where he died. The others escaped and the police are looking for them.’ There are of course slight variations such as that the police went to a man’s premises at 4 AM and when they knocked on the door the man opened fire and the fire was returned and the man was killed. As to be expected the police never receive a scratch in these alleged shootouts.
So, could this impasse ever be broken? Well, an opportunity may have presented itself with a front page Sunday Gleaner story where the writer says that two policemen, one of whom is retired, have admitted to him that these killings are often planned and directed by senior police officers. “That (police executions) cannot be done by any likkle policeman. That has to be ordered [at a higher level] explained the ex-policeman, who had told stories of how he saw alleged gangsters executed in a rural area . . . If any likkle police try that, he is on his own when INDECOM and dem people deh start come down on him. If the (police officer) order it, him know how him will take care of the report on the incident already.”
The fact is that though many observers have already deduced that this is how the killings take place, the Gleaner has never before bothered to investigate any of the killings. The Gleaner editors for example staunchly supported the police version of the killings in Tivoli Gardens in 2010 even though they did publish and video tape some of the contrary stories of the victims.
The Tivoli Committee which is pushing for the Tivoli massacre to be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution has publicly asked INDECOM to immediately convene a public enquiry into this policy of extrajudicial killings.
It is hoped that at such an enquiry, senior police officers, ministers of government, not excluding the prime minister, and whistleblowers within the force, would be called upon to tell what they know about the policy.
Only time will tell if INDECOM responds to this request but unless something dramatic like this happens there is no sign that the policy of police extrajudicial killings is likely to end anytime soon.
According to Gleaner staff reporter Corey Robinson, a “retired cop and a serving police officer” have confirmed that there are death squads operating within the police force. And, that police killings are usually planned and directed by senior police officers.
As shocking as this may seem to some people, this is only confirmation of what is known by critical thinking Jamaicans and what we have been saying for the longest while. But what is puzzling is that the Gleaner editors allowed such an article to be given front page prominence given Gleaner policy of pretending that they are ignorant of this decades-old policy. Their blind support for the Tivoli massacre, their refusal to entertain an intelligent discussion about commanders of the Tivoli massacre being sent to the International Criminal Court, is a glaring example.
Four things arise from this revelation that the state and the government MUST do in order to signal that they intend to change the policy immediately.
(1) We have been saying that the minister of national security instead of praying for divine intervention should have called the police command on to the carpet a long time ago to read them the riot act about extrajudicial killings. He is therefore as culpable for the POLICY as are the senior officers who plan these operations. If he were not culpable and did not condone these killings he would have made this his number one priority in terms of his responsibility for national security. He like ALL previous ministers of national security has never been able to make a clear and unambiguous statement condemning extrajudicial killings. He is compromised by this revelation and even if symbolic, the prime minister must replace him immediately or stand equally accused of direct complicity in this policy of extrajudicial killings.
(2) We have long called for the firing of the police commissioner not only for having presided over a steep increase in police killings as compared to his predecessors, but for his command role in the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre. As someone who has risen through the ranks to become police commissioner, Owen Ellington cannot be unaware of this policy (in fact he reluctantly admitted to it once) and should not be allowed to continue as head the police force because he more than any officer bears present responsibility for the policy. Deputy Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds who pleads ignorance is not credible either and should also be retired in the public interest. As for him, it is often overlooked that he was ground commander for the Tivoli massacre and bears as much responsibility as the police commissioner.
(3) In order for INDECOM to convince the public that it is not just ineffective — (i.e. being a body deliberately set up with severe limitations by the political ruling class so they can pretend that they don’t support the policy of police extrajudicial killings) — INDECOM has to become far more forceful. INDECOM must immediately move to set up a PUBLIC ENQUIRY — as it has the power to do — into what it must know by now is a policy of police extrajudicial killings. Let the prime minister, the minister of national security, the head of the police force, the senior officers, rank and file policemen, death squad members, informants such as those who confided to Corey Robinson, and others, to publicly testify as to how the policy works. Nothing less than this can at this time prevent the public from concluding that INDECOM is a toy in the hands of the police and is complicit with the policy of police killings.
(4) The question of whether this is a policy or not can be put to the test by the government requiring that its Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli massacre make a determination as to whether those who had command responsibility for the massacre should be held liable for crimes against humanity and if so agree to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. This we believe would be a major and a historical turning point in tackling this state policy of police extrajudicial killings.
Finally, Jamaicans must demand a radical and immediate departure from this policy. Our constitutional right to life is at risk by no other body than the state itself. Indeed, the policy not only raises questions about the legitimacy of our leaders, it exposes them as being not much different from the murderers who prey on citizens in the streets and communities.
Campaign for Social and Economic Justice
The Jamaica police shot and killed 258 people in 2013 and not a ripple has this caused in official society. The minister of national security is busy praying for divine intervention while the prime minister appears to be out of her depth on most political matters.
But this statistic doesn’t capture people like 31 year old Keshima “Royal” Tulloch, a street vendor, who was shot by the police and who was fortunate not to die.
Royal, an open lesbian, was verbally abused by a man in Half-Way-Tree who called her a sodomite. She retorted that he had phone numbers for drag queens. The man then proceeded to deliver several punches to her face knocking her to the ground.
In an attempt to defend herself Royal took a knife out of her handbag but before she had a chance to use it she was shot by a policeman who had witnessed the assault by the man but done nothing. Royal was shot in her left arm; and another bullet entering her left breast and exiting the right.
Despite her pleas for help nobody came to her assistance except for one man who the police shooter told to leave her alone, obviously wanting her to die. Fortunately for Royal a senior police officer came by and took her to the hospital.
But her ordeal was only beginning. No sooner had Royal come out of surgery than the police shooter came to the hospital and put her in handcuffs, claiming to arrest her because she had used a knife to assault the man who attacked her! Clearly a case of trying to justify his attempted murder.
Royal, who is still recuperating from the injuries that nearly took her life, has been to Court on two occasions to answer false charges of assault. On these two occasions the “victim” did not turn up. He had already phoned Royal to tell her that he had no intention of showing up. And just as well for both him and the arresting policeman: how would he be able show evidence of a knife wound?
The Independent Commission of Investgations (INDECOM) took a statement from Royal on the 7th of November 2013 and has yet to order the policeman arrested for attempted murder and false arrest.
This indecisiveness on the part of INDECOM is unacceptable as the evidence overwhelmingly supports an arrest. It is also high time that the prime minister delivers on her promise to protect LGBT Jamaicans.
Campaign for Social and Economic Justice
The full text of the letter has not been made public, but it is reported that JLP opposition leader, Andrew Holness, has written to prime minister Portia Simpson-Miller “regarding the appointment of persons to serve as commissioners for the west Kingston Commission of Enquiry.”
Holness wants to be “informed of the terms of reference of the enquiry before the appointment of commissioners given the importance and sensitivity of the matter.” He believes that the “public interest” will be best served by consultation with the Opposition on these matters.
The opposition leader may use words like “public interest” and “sensitivity” to try and camouflage his real concern about a commission of enquiry but it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out his real concerns.
First of all, no one will forget that Holness personally played a key public relations role in fronting for Bruce Golding during his disastrous handling of the extradition request for Christopher Dudus Coke. And, by his silence during the massacre, Holness would have signalled that as a senior Cabinet member he took personal and collective responsibility for the most vicious murder of civilians since the 1865 Morant Bay massacre. Away with talk about “public interest” and “sensitivity”: it is Holness’ own involvement in this murder that he is concerned about.
As prime minister, following Golding’s resignation in disgrace, Holness said very clearly that he saw no reason for a commission of enquiry. His concern then, as it is now, was the political embarrassment this could cause Golding, himself, and the Jamaica Labour Party.
Holness even went to Tivoli Gardens last year to encourage residents not to support a commission of enquiry. He and his team of HIGH RANKING JLP members used made vague, but vulgar promises about compensation and ‘rebuilding’ the area. This was their alternative.
When it became clear that the government was determined to have an enquiry, and that this had public support, he reluctantly changed his tune, now admitting that “under Jamaican law” “its members” would be obliged to appear if summoned.
The real explanation for this letter to the prime minster, is that Holness senses that the government is not keen on having an enquiry and hence bluster can be used to manipulate the enquiry to suit his purposes. In other words, Holness recognizes, even though there is no indication that this is the intention of the government, that even at this late moment, it is still theoretically possible for the government to accept the Tivoli Committee’s public recommendation that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
This is ultimately what Holness is trying to ensure doesn’t happen.
The Tivoli Committee therefore calls upon civil society to demand that the government MUST commit to ensuring that this Enquiry make a determination if ‘crimes against humanity were committed” and that those who had command responsibility for the massacre must be referred to the ICC for investigation and prosecution as we think they should.
Once again we identify the individuals who had supreme command responsibility: (1) former prime minister Bruce Golding; (2) former head of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Stewart Saunders; (3) Police Commissioner Owen Ellington; and (4) former minister of national security Dwight Nelson; among others.
Anything less than this approach will prove that the massacre was not just a security forces massacre, but a criminal, conspiratorial act instigated by the political ruling class — the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party — and whitewashing it is their way of covering their tracks and to set in motion more massacres to come.
According to statistics released by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) the Jamaican police is responsible for the killing of at least 258 people in 2013.
Almost all of these killings took place under questionable circumstances. The usual story about trigger happy gun men opening fire on the police and in return meeting certain death.
There is hardly any outcry from any section of Jamaican society — whether human rights, media, political parties, or even the Public Defender. There is much anguish, however, about the high civilian murder rate. And if one were to analyze the arguments, and the blame being placed on the police for not containing this murder rate, one can only conclude that the police is not killing enough or that it needs to kill more. No one has a clue or a solution to the high murder rate other than a police, paramilitary response.
Consequently, it becomes understandable, the social basis for this police policy, or more accurately, this state policy, of executing those who are deemed responsible, or likely to be responsible, for the high murder rate or just “crime”.
The 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre, for example, the killing over a two day period of 200 unarmed civilians, who supposedly posed a “threat” to the state, is an extreme but perfectly understandable manifestation of this policy.
No wonder, therefore, that nearly four years after the massacre, the Jamaican state has made no serious move towards determining responsibility, if any, for what happened.
It is clear, also, that more such one-off massacres are in the works, or at least considered necessary. It is only a matter of finding a way to officially whitewash the inconvenient Tivoli massacre, and to set the wheels of concentrated state terrorism in motion once again.
The question is: How long can this deliberate, criminal policy last?