THE EDITOR, Sir:
I note the letter by Mr Devon Sewell, 'JFJ's reaction disturbing', published in The Gleaner on Tuesday, January 29, 2013, and would wish to respond.
The first of the rights listed in the Charter of Rights in the Jamaican Constitution is in Section (3)(a) and reads as follows: "The right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which the person has been convicted."
Where the State, through the actions of one of its agents, is responsible for the taking of the life of a person in Jamaica other than in the circumstances described in Section (3)(a), it is the State which must give account for the circumstances of that death.
Devon Sewell starts from a flawed premise in his letter. It is not JFJ's duty to give "evidence to validate the innocence of these alleged victims". It is not JFJ's duty to do "some sort of background check on any of the victims to verify whether or not they were model citizens - or of questionable character". It is not JFJ's duty to collect and provide "forensic findings" in the death of people killed by the police. The duty for investigation into the circumstances of every person killed by the police is the duty of the State.
Unfortunately, the systems the Jamaican State has put in place for the investigation of killings by the police over many decades have been seriously limited in their ability to conduct thorough investigations. The accountability mechanisms have been seriously limited in their ability either to credibly clear policemen who have acted justifiably, or to successfully convict those who have acted outside the law.
It is our hope that INDECOM will be given the resources needed to carry out its mandate, and that it will be seen to be providing investigations which help to credibly clear those who have acted justifiably and to hold accountable those who have not acted justifiably.
We need to remember that it is not those who have been killed or their families who are required to prove the innocence of the person who has been killed. It is the duty of the State to show that its agents acted within the law.