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Tivoli commissioners named

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 25, 2014    

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Three commissioners, one of whom was the counsel for the body enquiring into the deaths of 27 persons in Tivoli Gardens during the 2001 intervention by the security forces, have been appointed to enquire into the 2010 security forces operation which left at least 76 civilians dead.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen has appointed the trio of commissioners on the advice of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. The commission will be chaired by former Barbados member of parliament and attorney general Sir David Simmons.

Simmons was also that country's chief justice, chairman of the Preparatory Committee to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), and first chairman of the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission which appoints judges to the CCJ, other than its president.

He served 25 years in the Barbados Parliament, twice as attorney general, and acted as prime minister on several occasions for former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Owen Arthur. He became chief justice in 2002, and was awarded Barbados' highest honour, Knight of St Andrew. He has also served as chairman of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as issues involving controversial former Trinidadian minister of national security Jack Warner.

The other commissioners are:

Former deputy director of public prosecution in Jamaica and currently private practitioner as an attorney-at-law, Velma Hylton.

She was the counsel for the commission which probed the 2001 confrontation between a police team led by former Senior Superintendent of Police Reneto Adams and residents of Tivoli Gardens, which left 27 persons dead.

Hylton also gave oversight to the famed trial of Marxist hardliners, led by Bernard Coard, for the killing of Grenadian revolutionary leader Maurce Bishop in 1984 and stayed on to become Grenada's director of public prosecution, before moving to The Bahamas where she was also DPP. She returned to Jamaica in 2000 and opened private practice in Manchester and St Elizabeth.

The third commissioner is retired judge of the Court of Appeal Hazel Harris, who acted as the president of that Court when President Justice Seymour Panton went on leave last summer. Justice Harris is also a former Registrar of the Supreme Court, Master in Chambers and a judge of the Supreme Court.

The Terms of Reference for the enquiry, which were also released yesterday, require the commission to look into the situation in Western Kingston in May 2010 prior to the attempt by the security forces to capture former Tivoli strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who was wanted by the US Government; whether state officials and law enforcement officers came under gunfire during the process; circumstances in which property, including a police station, were burnt; the conduct of the operations by the security forces; allegations that civilians in the area were armed; what arrangements were made and precautions taken to safeguard citizens from unnecessary injury or property damage; the circumstances in which the civilians were killed and private property damaged; whether the rights of citizens were violated in the process; the chain of command in relation to the decisions taken; whether there was direct or indirect communication with Coke; and whether compensation was provided to the residents, among other things.

The Commission has been asked to use its best effort to conclude the enquiry within three months of the start, and provide a report within two months after, and it may hold both public and private hearings.

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