Amnesty International calls on Holness to give INDECOM necessary powers

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Amnesty International calls on Holness to give INDECOM necessary powers

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — As Jamaica considers reforms to the law that governs the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), Amnesty International sent an open letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness urging the Government to give the entity the power to charge and initiate prosecutions of officers over unlawful killings and other abuses of power.

“As the world experiences a collective moment of outrage and grief over the police killing [of] George Floyd and so many other black people in the United States, the Jamaican Government must take this opportunity to put an end to its own human rights violations by the police.

“Jamaican families, like all families, deserve the kind of transformational police reforms and access to justice that people around the world are clamouring for to tackle institutionalised discrimination and impunity,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

“We call on Prime Minister Holness to seize this historic moment to demonstrate Jamaica's commitment to human rights and safeguard its progress in holding the police to account. The Government must protect the Independent Commission of Investigations' powers to arrest, charge, and initiate prosecutions of officers, which have resulted in a halving of fatal killings by the police since 2014,” added Guevara-Rosas.

Amnesty International has reported on unlawful killings by police in Jamaica for more than two decades.

The organisation's 2016 report, Waiting in Vain: Unlawful police killings and relatives' long struggle for justice, detailed how Jamaican young men, especially those in marginalised and disenfranchised neighbourhoods, have been scarred by unlawful killings by the police, while their relatives, particularly mothers and sisters, are left to face a long struggle for justice, as well as frequent intimidation and harassment by the police.

The report also found that INDECOM has overhauled the country's system for police accountability for the better since it was established in 2010.

Amnesty noted that the number of killings by police halved from 258 in 2013, the year that INDECOM began to arrest and prosecute officers, to 115 in 2014, according to INDECOM figures. Last year there were 86 fatal police shootings, the lowest total in almost 20 years.

“In the decades before INDECOM was established, only a handful of police officers were convicted of criminal wrongdoing. In contrast, since 2014 INDECOM has secured 21 convictions against law enforcement officials for criminal misconduct,” reported Amnesty.

A motion to amend the INDECOM Act were tabled after Jamaica's highest court of appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, held that Parliament in drafting the INDECOM Act explicitly gives the Commission an investigative role but did not also explicitly confer on it the powers to prosecute, as it had been doing since 2014.

Following the judgment Jamaican Parliament must now determine what powers it wishes to give INDECOM in law.

Amnesty noted that in 2015 a Parliamentary Committee recommended giving INDECOM powers to institute and undertake criminal proceedings, but until now the Government has not implemented these recommendations.


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