Sun | May 28, 2017

Soldier ‘hears’ cops kill unarmed men

Published:Friday | September 18, 2015 | 9:00 AMLivern Barrett

Amid testimony of a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldier yesterday that he believed police personnel shot and killed two unarmed men in Tivoli Gardens during the May 2010 operations,

accusations have surfaced that the Independent Commission of Investi-gations (INDECOM) acted in breach of its own statute.

The accusation by attorneys watching the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry came after it was revealed that INDECOM, which has been conducting a criminal probe into the conduct of police and military personnel during the operations, shared the witness statements of three soldiers with a third party.

"These documents were given to him (the INDECOM commissioner) in confidence ... . They were all stamped confidential. You could do irreparable harm to people's reputation," the attorney asserted.

According to one attorney, who spoke on condition of anonymity, this is in breach of section 28 of the INDECOM Act, which states: "The commissioner and every person concerned with the administration of this Act shall regard as secret and confidential all documents, information and things disclosed to them in the execution of any of the provisions of this act."

INDECOM boss Terrence Williams acknowledged that his office alerted the Office of the Public Defender to the existence of the statements that were signed by the soldiers last year, but dismissed the accusation as a red herring and insisted his office and the Sir David Simmons-chaired commission of enquiry "have to work together to meet the ends of justice".

Williams, a former deputy director of public prosecutions, argued that the soldiers' witness statements could not be considered confidential.

"It is something that will have to go before a court, will have to be considered by this commission, would have to be considered by a coroner's inquest or whosoever. So anybody who is making that claim does not understand section 28 [of the INDECOM Act]," he reasoned.

One of the soldiers, who was allowed to give his evidence from an undisclosed location, recounted how he saw two young men laying inside a house with multiple gunshot wounds moments after a brief conversation with a group of masked policemen.

COPS WEARING MASKS

The witness - referred to as Soldier One - said he and a group of soldiers were standing near the intersection of Dee Cee and Chang avenues in the west Kingston community when a group of policemen wearing balaclava masks began conducting searches of houses.

Soldier One, with his voice distorted and testifying via audio and video links fed to the Jamaica Conference Centre, said he "could hear when they reached a particular house", located approximately 15 metres from where he was standing.

He said he heard when the policemen asked the occupants who was inside and a woman replied, saying she was there with her two sons. According to him, the policemen ordered the woman outside and instructed the two men to remain inside the house.

Soldier One said he heard the policemen speaking to the two young men, followed by the sounds of loud explosions that "sound to me like gunshots".

"It was coming from the direction where I heard the talking ... in the vicinity of the house," he testified.

"What happened after you heard the explosions?" asked senior legal counsel to the commission Garth McBean, who led him through his evidence.

"I heard when one of the policemen shout out, 'A shoot you waan fi shoot me'," Soldier One responded.

Within minutes, Soldier One said he and other soldiers went to the area.

"Did you notice anything when you went to that area?" McBean asked.

"When I reached there, I could see two bodies on the ground. One a the young man, his eyes a turn in a him head and there was blood indicating fresh wounds," he replied, noting that the other man also had gunshot wounds.

"Did you see any guns where the boys were with the wounds?" the commission counsel continued.

"No, sir. I didn't see any guns," Soldier One responded.

He told the commission that he would not be able to identify any of the policemen because they were all wearing balaclava masks that covered their faces.

Soldier One admitted, during cross-examination by attorney for the Jamaica Constabulary Force Deborah Martin, that he did not know who fired the shots and struck the two men.

However, responding to questions from INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams, he said it was his "estimation" that they were shot by the policemen.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com