Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Faulty SOE results in moral, political dilemma, says JFJ

Published:Monday | December 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
JFJ Executive Director Rodjé Malcolm

The rejection of the evidence that serious challenges existed in the implementation of the states of public emergency (SOE) has have resulted in a moral and political dilemma for several Jamaicans who support both crime-fighting efforts and the protection of human rights, says Jamaicans for Justice's (JFJ) executive director, Rodje Malcolm.

"Since the declaration of the first state of public emergency in January 2018, national stakeholders and public institutions have produced evidence of serious challenges with the implementation of the special security measure both privately and publicly for the Government. These concerns were never an attack on the necessary crime fighting that Jamaica needs but rather were a good-faith attempt to ensure that security operations did not unintentionally harm the very persons that they intended to help," Malcolm said.

He reasoned that clear evidence of the problem has been repeatedly rejected and misrepresented as an attack on the Government's crime plan.

Last week Tuesday, the parliamentary Opposition withdrew their support of the crime-fighting measure in St Catherine North, St James, and sections of the Corporate Area, which were up for an extension, following a marathon debate in Parliament.

In its aftermath, the human-rights group stated that it takes note of the recent developments regarding the three ongoing states of public emergency, which, by virtue of parliamentary vote on December 11, will come to an end in January 2019.

"JFJ fully supports lawful and legitimate crime-fighting measures that dismantle criminal networks and restore peace and security to Jamaica. Every Jamaican has a human right to life, to feel safe, and live peacefully," said Malcolm.

"At the same time, every Jamaican has the right to be protected from state abuse and illegal detention by security forces. As a mature society, Jamaica should never trade one set of protections for another," he continued.

He pointed out that statistics on detentions under the states of public emergency reveal that roughly 95 per cent of all persons detained are never charged or formally suspected of any crime.

"In almost every case, public resources were expended locking up people for days and sometimes weeks simply to release them afterwards without charging them," JFJ's top executive said.

Malcolm said that evidence emerged as early as March 2018 that legally compliant detention orders for the sweeping majority of persons detained did not exist, adding that as a result, the very tribunal set up in St James to review detentions raised the alarm eight months ago that they could not effectively do their job.

"Based on casework, it appears that many members of the security forces were unaware that a legal framework for the state of emergency existed, that they had specific obligations under the law, and that regulations governing detention under the state of emergency existed," noted Malcolm.

He stated that his organisation regrets the fact that the nation's political leaders remain unable to agree on a crime-fighting strategy that is lawful, sustainable and does not hurt powerless Jamaicans.

"For any security measure to produce the long-term transformation that we all desire, it must enjoy broad societal support and not harm or alienate the most powerless among us. Criminal elements must be dismantled and brought to justice, and our state officials must uphold, not break the law in discharging their duties. Without both, we will never achieve a safe and just Jamaica," said Malcolm.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com