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Bunting did not grant soldiers immunity from criminal charges — PNP

Monday, April 16, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The People's National party (PNP) is contending that Peter Bunting, former minister of national security, did not issue certificates of immunity to the three Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) members, who are on trial for the 2010 murder of Keith Clarke.

Instead, the party is arguing that Bunting merely certified that the soldiers were acting in good faith and within the scope of the mission of the security forces under the state of emergency.

The trial of the three soldiers — Corporal Odel Buckley, Lance Corporal Greg Tinglin and Private Arnold Henry — was put off last Wednesday by Supreme Court judge, Justice Glen Brown, for the legality of the certificates to be determined in a full court after JDF attorney Paul Beswick surprised the court with them two days prior.

Immunity granted under Emergency Powers Regulation

The party's spokesperson on justice, Senator Donna Scott Mottley today issued a statement outlining that it was during the Bruce Golding government, which included at least nine current Cabinet Ministers, that Parliament brought into effect the Emergency Powers (No. 10) Regulations of 2010, which, according to Section 45 (1), gave immunity from prosecution to any member of the security forces for “acts done in good faith in the exercise of (their) functions for public safety”.

Scott Mottley argued that it was incontrovertible that Clarke's death occurred during a security forces operation — involving military intelligence and equipment, including helicopters, lorries and personnel carriers — and that the three Jamaica Defence Force officers charged are of low rank.

At the time of the operation, the Minister of National Security was Dwight Nelson. However, the Director of Public Prosecution's (DPP's) ruling that the soldiers should be charged came after the change of government.

“It is only because of this that Mr Bunting became involved and certified that the acts of the soldiers charged were done “in good faith in the exercise of (their) functions as members of the security forces for public safety, the restoration of order, the preservation of peace and in the public interest”, as required by the 2010 regulations,” explained Scott Mottley.

She said neither former minister Bunting, nor any minister, can grant immunity from criminal charges, only the law of the country can, explaining that it is only the DPP who can end criminal prosecutions.

Reconsider SOE for day-to-day crime fighting

In the meantime, the spokesperson on justice called for the public to be informed of the grave consequences of the declaration of states of emergency and suggested that Parliament considers whether such declarations are the answer to day-to-day crime fighting as SOEs indemnify the security forces and remove the role of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

She added that the emergency powers regulations for the current state of emergency in St James and St Catherine North have an identical Section 45(1) providing immunity to the security forces.

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