Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
As the minister of national security moves to open discussions for the review of the legislation governing the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act, local human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) says it will be closely monitoring the process to ensure that the Act does not lose any of its legislative powers.
Speaking at the group's annual general meeting at the Immaculate Conception High School in St Andrew on Saturday, JFJ Chairperson Susan Goffe said the INDECOM Act represents one of the best moves towards accountability that the country has seen in years and called for its protection.
"One of the dangers that we need to be aware of is the possibility of the weakening of the Act so that the teeth are taken out of it," Goffe said.
"I think we need to be prepared so that if there is going to be amendment to that Act or discussion of amendment then we must speak strongly to ensure that the only amendments are those that strengthen," Goffe said.
She added that INDECOM also represents a challenge to those within the force who wish to continue what she described as the situation of impunity.
"We have seen a lot of ways in which INDECOM is being challenged or undermined. there continues to be the issue of who is to have control of the (crime) scene and issues to do with (their powers of arrest and the ability to lay charges)," Goffe told the gathering.
Last month, National Security Minister Peter Bunting told Parliament that there was to be a review of the legislation in light of a sea of controversy between INDECOM members and the Jamaica Constabulary Force personnel over the power of INDECOM investigators.
The powers of the independent investigative body first came up for questioning last year after investigators arrested and charged Police Corporal Malica Reid in relation to the shooting death of Negril businessman Frederick 'Mickey' Hill.
The director of public prosecutions (DPP) later stepped in and withdrew the charge and submitted a new indictment. This later led to a disagreement between INDECOM and the Office of the DPP over the power of INDECOM to arrest and lay charges.
A group of associations representing police personnel are now in court challenging INDECOM's powers. The group chairperson also warned that it was important for the public to lend their support to INDECOM as well as understand some of the criticisms being leveled against it.