Jamaica:Failure of commission to provide justice for 27 murdered in West Kingston

The organisation's report, on the anniversary of the incident, calls for an independent judicial enquiry to be set up with international support.

No evidence was heard at the Inquiry from any of the victims or their families. Most witnesses called to give evidence were members of the security forces or otherwise employed by the government. Membership of the Commission was also extraordinarily unbalanced, with 8 lawyers representing the state and only 2 representing citizens.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director, said:

'The West Kingston Commission of Inquiry has failed to fulfil its obligations under international law to fully investigate these killings.

'Until there is a proper inquiry into what happened in West Kingston in July 2001, impunity for state killings will persist, with the conclusion that it is 'nobody's fault'.

'There can be no justice for the victims and their families until their voices are heard, their deaths adequately explained and those responsible held to account where the law has been violated.'

Rupert Skilbeck, British barrister and member of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, who attended the Commission of Enquiry as an observer on behalf of Amnesty International, said:

'The Commission of Inquiry was a travesty of the legal and evidential tests which a public inquiry into killings by state agents is required to perform under international law.

'Procedural and other flaws ensured that the Inquiry was bound to fail from the start and that the requirement to undertake a proper investigation was not properly addressed in either the Commission hearings or the subsequent report.'

Victims were inadequately represented on the Commission and independent witnesses were neither represented, nor protected, nor compellable. Furthermore, with no independent investigators, Commissioners were dependent on the police that were the very subject of the inquiry to unearth all the available evidence.

The procedure for cross-examination meant it was virtually impossible for evidence from security forces to be properly tested, preventing the independent fact-finding that should have characterised a rigorous investigation under international law.

Such fundamental flaws in the fact-finding process ensured that the inquiry was bound to fail. With legal advice suggesting that the security forces had the right to fire on unarmed Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights, the findings of the Commission were a foregone conclusion.

Kate Allen said:

'The 27 people who lost their lives at West Kingston were killed on a balance of probabilities by the agents of the state. The lack of any opposing evidence should not have led to automatic acceptance of the State's evidence.

'The Commission of Inquiry has missed a unique opportunity to provide justice for the victims in West Kingston and to help prevent such a major loss of life from happening again.

'We are calling on the Jamaican authorities to set up a thorough and independent inquiry, to provide in-depth scrutiny of the facts and discover how these 27 people were killed.'

Background

Between the 7th and the 10th July 2001 there were large-scale disturbances throughout Jamaica, most significantly in the West Kingston area of the capital.

The Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF) initially claimed to have gone into the area to seize illegal weapons, which they understood were present, following intelligence received. This operation began in the early hours of the 5th July. The JCF together with the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) state that they soon came under attack from armed men and used lethal force in order to respond.

As a result, at least 27 people were killed and over 60 were reported seriously injured. Two of the dead were members of the security forces.

The Commission started hearings in September 2001 and published its final report in June 2002. The area in which the incident took place, Tivoli Gardens, is often referred to as a 'garrison community'. It is in the constituency of Edward Seaga, MP, the leader of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and a previous Prime Minister of Jamaica.

The report, Jamaica: 'Until Their Voices Are Heard...' - The West Kingson Commission of Inquiry is available online at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR380102003?open&of=ENG-JAM

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