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Delay in Public Defender’s report letting people get away with murder — Amnesty Int'l

Friday, January 18, 2013 | 2:24 PM    

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LONDON (CMC) — The London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, has warned that continued delays in the investigation into the killing of 73 people during an operation by security forces in Jamaica in 2010 could be letting people “get away with murder”.

In a letter sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Michael Peart, the human rights group questioned ongoing delays in the presentation of the report that the Public Defender Earl Witter was due to submit to the Parliament on January 15 after missing previous deadlines.

“It is outrageous that nearly three years since the Tivoli Gardens killings the Jamaican authorities are far from being able to answer the many questions that remain,” said Javier Zúñiga, special advisor at Amnesty International.

“By failing to ensure that those responsible for the killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests that took place in Tivoli in 2010, the Jamaican authorities are simply sending the message that human rights abuses are permitted and won’t be punished,” he added.

Zúñiga said that, when the Minister of National Security was questioned in July 2012 about the delays he said then that the Office of the Public Defender was “understaffed” to undertake that scale of investigation.

“If the problem is a lack of resources available to the Office of the Public Defender, the authorities should have addressed this issue long ago,” Zúñiga said.

Peart had told reporters that he had got the assurance from Witter that the long-delayed report would have been delivered to Parliament in time to be tabled on January 15.

In May 2010, members of the security forces went into Tivoli Gardens in search of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who was wanted for extradition to the United States on gun and drug-related charges.

But the security forces and people loyal to Coke were engaged in a shootout resulting in the death of approximately 70 people. The security forces also said they recovered several guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

However, residents accused the security forces of extrajudicial killings and destroying homes and businesses.

The Office of the Public Defender said it had received more than 700 complaints of excesses by the security forces from the residents.

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