Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Civilian witnesses ignoring west Kingston enquiry

Published:Thursday | October 16, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

Potential civilian witnesses appear to be ignoring an appeal by the west Kingston Commission of Enquiry to come forward and give evidence about the 2010 Tivoli Gardens incursion that left over 70 persons dead.

Up to late yesterday, according to Garth McBean, senior legal adviser to the commission, no one had responded to a newspaper advertisement published on Sunday inviting persons to come forward and testify about the police-military operations.

Witnesses who want to testify at the enquiry are required to provide the commission with a written statement, and McBean told The Gleaner that he and his junior, Symone Mayhew, had made themselves available yesterday to record such statements.

"You could say it is a little too early to gauge the response. When we could start gauging the response is early next week," he reasoned, adding that the advertisement will be repeated this weekend.

NO FORMAL NOTICE

In addition, McBean said there has been no formal notice from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) indicating when the statements of police personnel who participated in the operations will be turned over to the commission.

Despite this, he expects that those statements will be turned over in time to allow the enquiry to commence in early December.

"I know that the police are going to have legal representation and no doubt when the time comes for the deadline for statements to be submitted, they will be submitted to the secretariat," McBean said.

He said attorneys representing the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) have already made contact with the commission and arrangements are being made to have statements given by military personnel who participated in the operations turned over.

"They are in touch with us, but they were waiting until the rules [of the enquiry] are published," he explained.

Among other things, the three-man commission has been charged with enquiring whether the constitutional rights of any person were violated during the 2010 operations and McBean underscored that the enquiry is still on track to start in early December.

However, it comes amid concerns about the forensic evidence that will be presented to the commission.

DOUBTS RAISED

One attorney, who spoke on condition of anonymity, has raised doubts about whether the soldiers involved in the operation had their hands swabbed by investigators for gunpowder residue, and whether the items of clothing that were being worn by those killed were also swabbed for residue or preserved for their evidential value.

"Nobody has said what they have as forensic evidence, so I don't know to what extent the forensics they have are going to shed any light on who killed who," the attorney told The Gleaner in June.

An interim report prepared by the Office of the Public Defender revealed that 76 civilians and one member of the JDF were killed during the incursion to capture then fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke on an extradition warrant issued by the United States.

Coke has since been convicted in the US on racketeering charges and is serving a 23-year prison sentence.