Monday 28 September, 2020

Measures taken to minimise human rights violations under the SOE – JCF

Soldiers on deployment in Westmoreland under the state of emergency in much of western Jamaica.

Soldiers on deployment in Westmoreland under the state of emergency in much of western Jamaica.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Territorial Officer for St James, Deputy Superintendent Angela McIntosh-Gayle, has indicated that measures have been put in place to mitigate against human rights violations against persons who are held in detention under the recently-imposed state of emergency (SOE) in the parish and the wider western Jamaica.

Coming out of a SOE that was imposed in St James on January 18, 2018, which ended on January 31 this year, a report tabled by Public Defender, Arlene Harrison-Henry, cited widespread human rights abuses of detainees.

"During the last state of public emergency we had a lot of persons coming here (the waiting area), but of course this time we won't have that because waiting time will not be so long. Bear in mind that persons who came in yesterday (Tuesday), as you have seen, they are not in our custody today (Wednesday). We have no reason to keep them. Once there is nothing on them, we release them after processing,” DSP McIntosh-Gayle stated.

She added that the police are more prepared for this SOE than they were for the previous one.

Police and military personnel gathered for a briefing prior to an operation in Montego Bay, St James.

"Definitely, we couldn't have repeated the same things. From the public defender's report we would have had training, which the public defender is a part of it. They come in and trained persons; we have persons from the legal branch, so they would guide us on the SOE, as also the ZOSO (Zones of Special Operation) Act, so we are very much more informed, sensitised and educated, so we are better able to do our job," the senior cop stated.

She was speaking to reporters following a tour of waiting and detention area at the Montego Bay-based Freeport Police Station, the main police facility in St James, on Wednesday. She was accompanied on the tour by head of the St James Police Division, Superintendent Vernon Ellis, and Errol Chattoo, a representative of the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM).

Prime Minister Andrew Holness' attempt to extend the SOE in late January of this year was thwarted by the Opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP) decision not to continue to support the security measures.

Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, then pointed to human rights violation as a primary reason for the then withdrawal of support for the SOE.

However, with a return to concerning level of criminality in much of the western section of the island, including St James, from indications, it appears that the Phillips and the PNP are now in support of the recent and wider imposition of a state of emergency in western Jamaica.

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