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JDF warning - INDECOM search warrant too risky, solicitor general tells court

Published:Tuesday | April 12, 2016 | 4:00 AMLivern Barrett
The entrance to the Jamaica Defence Force headquarters at Up Park Camp in St Andrew.

The nation's solicitor general, Nicole Foster-Pusey, is warning that granting the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) a warrant to search the army's Up Park Camp headquarters could shake international confidence in Jamaica.

The warning came yesterday as the Judicial Review Court began hearing an application by the head of the Jamaican military, Major General Antony Anderson, and the Defence Board to quash a warrant obtained by INDECOM to conduct a search of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) headquarters.

As part of its investigations into the use of mortars during the May 2010 police-military operation in the west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens, INDECOM surprised JDF officials with a search warrant last December.

The warrant was accompanied by seven notices that required JDF personnel to give evidence under oath about the use of mortars.

The warrant, which was scheduled to be executed on January 12 this year, gave INDECOM investigators the authority to enter Up Park Camp and gain access, make enquiries and inspect documents, records, information and property related to the procurement and use of the explosives during the operation.

While acknowledging that the intended purpose of the warrant was to access and inspect documents related to actions of members of the security forces in a specific operation, Foster-Pusey warned of the dangers this presented.

"The warrant is so wide in its scope that there are no restrictions on how the retrieval of the information and documents will be conducted, and it is likely that sensitive information and confidential international agreements will be obtained or accessed," she indicated in her submissions to the court.

"That is not the only possible consequence of the proposed act. There is substantial risk that if the warrant is executed ... certain confidential documents and information will be disclosed or accessed," she warned.

Added Foster-Pusey: "There will also be a negative impact on the confidence reposed in the Jamaica Defence Force, and, by extension, Jamaica due to this access."

The solicitor general also raised concerns that there appeared to be no protocol in place to prevent disclosure of records and information that INDECOM would not be authorised to view.

She suggested that the court could consider and form a view on whether there is the need for a protocol to be put in place "in respect of information which may be outside of the realm of the Official Secrets Act".

Seventy-four civilians and one member of the JDF were killed in the operations, which were aimed at capturing then fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

After initially denying that mortars were used in the operations, retired army chief Major General Stewart Saunders admitted, during testimony before the west Kingston commission of enquiry, that 37 mortars were fired into three open spaces in Tivoli Gardens during the operations.

Foster-Pusey is scheduled to continue her submissions today.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com