Mon | May 25, 2020

Zahra Burton | Of police death squads and Israel

Published:Friday | November 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Zahra Burton

In response to your editorial 'Is Israeli intelligence the difference?' (Gleaner, November 14, 2018), the reader is led to believe that intelligence gathering in the Jamaica Constabulary Force is suddenly improving based on the number of 'clear-ups' of murders happening across the country.

In your editorial, you write: "Based on the police's attribution to killings by these men, those operations would mean the clearing up of at least 10 murders - six by Hall and four by Armstrong - as well as several other crimes, including, in the case of Armstrong, the shooting of a policeman."

It is asked whether acquired Israeli know-how is playing a role in locating high-profile criminals. What's not asked in your editorial, however, is whether there is potentially a resurfacing of extra-judicial killings leading to this so-called 'clear-up' of murders.

In the recently concluded trial of Collis 'Chucky' Brown, who was found guilty on all counts, he told INDECOM, according to the transcript of that interview submitted into evidence:

HC (Hamish Campbell): ...Who chooses, who decides which people should be shot? Not you? You're not...

CB: No, no. Them give us.

HC: The supt ... .

CB: Yes, yeah, man. They give us the photographs and so.

RW: And no question is asked, you just carry out once you get information?

CB: No, well, what them usually do, you see like if a person commit a murder? Okay, mek me tell you weh them do. If a person commit a murder, what they do, call in, if they have a eyewitness, call in the eyewitness, collect a statement, right?

HC: Yeah ... ?

RW: Uhum ... ?

CB: Prepare a warrant, call in us, give us information fi deal wid it. After the person is killed then they clear up the murder pon him."

Maybe I'm wrong, but I take this to mean that once an ordered killing has been completed by the police killers, "dem clear up the murder pon him", i.e., the person who was killed.

Is this way of 'clearing up murders' something to celebrate? Some, given the brutality of criminals in this country, would argue yes. Others would say no.

At the very least, this opining by The Gleaner needs to reflect some level of awareness of your own court reporting that there is often reason to doubt the police in their official reporting of these so-called gun battles. Based on recent evidence and a track record of extra-judicial killings in this country, surely that option needs to be mentioned as a possibility for this so-called 'improvement'.


More Transparency


Related to your article, it is true that we need more transparency around the involvement of Israel in our national-security affairs. Civil-society activist Lloyd D'Aguilar recently informed me of an ATI request he submitted in November of 2017, about the January 2017 trip to Israel by the prime minister and his team. The ATI request has been shared for the purpose of this article.

(1) The names of all who accompanied the prime minister on his January 10, 2017 trip to Israel?

(2) The cost to the Government of Jamaica for transportation, accommodation and other expenses for the entire party.

(3) Whereof any of the expenses underwritten by the government of Israel?

(4) If yes, how much was underwritten by the government of Israel?

(6) Was a joint communique issued by the government of Jamaica and the government of Israel?

(6) If yes, please provide a copy.

(7) Did the Government of Jamaica issue a press release in terms of what was discussed and agreed on?

(8) If yes, please provide a copy.

"A news media report states that during the meeting between Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January of this year," the Israeli prime minister "expressed appreciation that Jamaica did not join the recent vote against Israel in the United Nations".

(1) Is it true that at some point previous to January 10, 2017, the Holness administration, through its representative at the UN, "did not join the recent vote against Israel".

(2) If this is accurate, please indicate the resolution that came before the UN General Assembly which Jamaica did not support or "vote against Israel".

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is reported as discussing possibilities for cooperation between the two governments in several areas, including "domestic security", and expressed an admiration for the advances that Israel had made in technology "in particular, cyber-security".

(1) Please state the name of any company or companies that have been given a contract or contracts to set up the pending National Identification System (NIDS).

Though the ATI Act says a response should generally be received in 30 days, Mr D'Aguilar says he still has not received one.

Another question, I would add, is whether there have since been other trips by government/national security officials to Israel? Please provide the dates of the trips, who went, and who paid. What was the purpose of these trips?

This is where I agree with The Gleaner. It's time for this Government to explain Jamaica's specific relationship with Israel in terms of our national security concerns.

- Zahra Burton is executive producer and host of 188 North. Email feedback to and