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INDECOM blames public defender for ballistics tests delay

Wednesday, March 26, 2014    

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THE Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) yesterday shifted the blame for the delayed completion of ballistics tests relating to the May 2010 Tivoli Gardens security forces operation from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to the Office of the Public Defender.

In an ironic twist, INDECOM, in a response to statements made by Public Defender Earl Witter blaming the JDF for the delay at a press conference at his office on Monday, blamed the public defender instead.

INDECOM said it "categorically denies" Witter's suggestion that there was any inability on its part to secure the weapons of the members of the JDF.

"In fact, the JDF has been very co-operative in this investigation and, in any event, the commission has coercive powers to secure these firearms for testing," INDECOM stated.

"The ballistics comparison process is awaiting Mr Witter's compliance with the steps he agreed to take in relation to this investigation, that is, to provide certain information to INDECOM," the release added.

Witter, in a statement to the press at his briefing on Monday, suggested that the proposed commission of enquiry would be nothing but a "sham" without the ballistics reports to determine who killed whom.

He claimed that INDECOM was still seeking to secure the co-operation of the JDF in surrendering its firearms for testing, which was delaying the process.

But yesterday, INDECOM denied that there was delay due to any lack of co-operation from the JDF, and blamed Witter's office instead.

"The ballistic comparison process is awaiting Mr Witter's compliance with the steps he agreed to take in relation to this investigation, that is, to provide certain information to INDECOM," the commission said.

INDECOM said that at a meeting with the stakeholders in June last year, Commissioner Terrence Williams discussed protocols for the analysis of ballistic material related to the enquiry into the 2010 police/military operation in Tivoli Gardens. The public defender told that meeting that his files had statements indicating that 44 persons killed during the operation could have been victims of extrajudicial killings. He undertook to provide these statements to INDECOM.

It was also agreed that JDF and JCF weapons would be test-fired, based on the prioritisation in a protocol agreed to by the Government. The Government ballistic expert estimated that up to 20 weapons could be test-fired within a day, and that ballistic comparisons would be conducted in the presence of the independent ballistic expert, and where this may cause undue pressure on the Government Forensic Laboratory facilities, INDECOM's Microscope Room could also be used.

But, INDECOM said that, since then, it has written several letters to Witter reminding him of the agreement and urging him to forward the said files, but has had no response.

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