Say sorry and compensate victims of Tivoli Gardens incursion, commission tells Jamaica government

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KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Jamaica government owes nothing less than an apology and compensation to residents of the west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens for the excesses of the security forces during the incursion aimed at capturing drug lord and gang leader Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who was facing extradition to the United States to face firearms and narcotics charges.

That’s according to the report tabled in Parliament yesterday by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, that was submitted by the Commission of Inquiry that investigated the May 2010 joint police and military operation that resulted in 73 civilian deaths.

The three-member commission, chaired by retired Barbadian jurist Sir David Simmons, said an apology, which should be given in Parliament for the purpose of “assuaging the hurt feelings, bitterness, and resentment of the people of west Kingston, and, with a view to promoting restorative justice and bringing closure to this sorry chapter in Jamaica’s history”.

But it said government had to go further, contending that “an apology alone will not meet the justice of the legitimate claims of the people of west Kingston and related areas”.

“While we recognize that there is a pressing need to bring closure to this matter, and while we are conscious of INDECOM’s [Independent Commission of Investigations] continuing investigations, which must not be constricted, we are of the opinion that redress by way of compensation should proceed without delay,” the commissioners said.

They suggested that a compensation committee be set up to investigate and determine claims for compensation for loss and damage to property and business as well as compensation payable to injured persons and to the personal representatives of deceased persons without prejudice to the investigations of INDECOM.

“We respectfully further recommend that the compensation committee be chaired by a retired judge or senior attorney-at-law, expert and experienced in the assessment of compensation for personal injuries and death, and the committee should be directed to complete its work within nine months,” the commission, which also included jurist Justice Hazel Harris and criminologist Professor Anthony Harriott, stated in the report.

“Since there already exists in the possession of the MoLSS (Ministry of Labour and Social Security) and OPD (Office of the Public Defender) a substantial body of relevant and useful documentation relating to loss and damage of property, we do not envisage that this recommendation will involve a protracted exercise,” the report added.

The commission also recommended that there be continued criminal investigations into the killings of residents whom, “all the evidence adduced strongly suggests…were unlawfully killed by unidentified police officers”; as well as reforms of the security forces to improve their use of force, arms management, and civilian oversight.

It even went as far as to suggest that certain high-ranking officials in the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force be barred from leading or participating in any future internal security operations.


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