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INDECOM under threat! - Human-rights groups concerned about funding for police oversight body

Published:Sunday | October 30, 2016 | 10:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Terrence Williams
In this 2013 photo, members of INDECOM are seen at a crime scene in Denham Town, west Kingston, after two men were killed by the police.
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The United Nations (UN) Committee on Human Rights has raised concerns about the sustainability of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), given the fact that a substantial amount of the organisation's budget is funded by international donors.

The security force oversight body was allocated a little over $350 million in the national Budget for this fiscal year, which is just over $1 million more than last year's budget. The commission has also received a combined total of over $230 million from the Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Union (EU).

The sustainability of INDECOM has been a long-standing issue for the UN Committee, and was raised again when Jamaica went up for its fourth review in Geneva, Switzerland, recently. Jamaica was called upon to defend its handling of extrajudicial killings, as well as issues relating to the rights of children in state care and gender-based violence.

 

LEVEL OF RESOURCES

 

The committee, in March of this year, called into question the level of resources and the mandate of INDECOM, to which the Government responded in September that the commission has a budget of approximately $300 million, which goes primarily towards salaries and operational expenses.

"INDECOM has played an invaluable role in reducing cases of extrajudicial killings and police excesses. In 2015, ninety-eight police killings were recorded. This represents a 16-year low and is 15 per cent less than the 129 recorded in 2014, and 42 per cent less than the 258 recorded in 2013," Jamaican authorities told the UN Committee.

INDECOM was established in 2010 to investigate actions by agents of the State, including the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Defence Force and correctional officers, which result in the injuring or death of citizens or the abuse of the rights of persons.

Commissioner of INDECOM Terrence Williams noted that while the Government has allocated a budget, the commission depends to a great extent on overseas funding to finance significant aspects of its operations.

"The Government of Jamaica pays most of the salaries and the rent, but most of everything else is done with donor support," Williams told The Sunday Gleaner. "Even some salaries are paid for with donor-agency support.

"There are some areas of our operations which, because of the Government support being so low, we are constrained to take out of the DFID support. For example, security for our premises and some of our legal fees are paid for out of that. Any advertising that we are going to do will be paid for by EU campaign. We have hired some investigators and lawyers based upon EU funding and DFID funding, so the funding is crucial to the work of INDECOM," he explained.

Local human-rights organisations have also raised concerns about the sustainability of the oversight body. A coalition of human-rights groups, which made a submission to the UN Committee two weeks ago, noted that while they recognised the financial constraints facing the State, the Government's financial support for INDECOM has not been adequate.

"Without grants, the majority of its work would be substantially reduced, and it would have to reduce staff. This fundamentally threatens the sustainability of INDECOM's work and its security of independent operations," the coalition noted.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com