Killing of Michael Gayle -- police and army unit must be held to account

The DPP announced yesterday that he would not be filing charges against any of the police officers or soldiers involved in Mr Gayle's death, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to hold anyone criminally responsible. The Commissioner of Police simultaneously announced that he was to re-open the investigation.

Amnesty International fears that the DPP's decision implies that either the police investigation was inadequate, or the DPP is reluctant to prosecute members of the police and security forces.

'Both scenarios are unacceptable and should be of great concern to all Jamaican citizens,' the organisation added.

The DPP's decision appears inconsistent and incomprehensible in the light of the clear findings of the Coroner's inquest, the autopsy report and other eyewitness testimony to the killing.

Whilst welcoming the decision by the Commissioner of Police to reopen the case, Amnesty International urges that he ensures that this results in a thorough and impartial investigation, the detailed findings of which should be made public.

'We fear that the DPP's decision will further undermine the Jamaican public's confidence and support for law enforcement officers,' the organisation said.

Background On 23 December 1999 the jury of the Coroner's inquiry into the death of Michael Gayle returned an 11-1 verdict recommending that all those manning the roadblock on the night of the 21 August 1999 be charged with manslaughter.

Twenty-six year old Michael Gayle -- who was mentally ill -- died on 23 August 1999 of the injuries sustained after attempting to pass through a police and army road block in Olympic Gardens two days earlier. He was subjected to such a severe beating by police and army officers that he suffered a traumatic rupture of his stomach lining. His mother, Jennie Cameron, claimed that she witnessed her son lying on the ground surrounded by policemen and soldiers and had to 'beg' the officers to stop the beating. This claim is consistent with the injuries suffered by Mr Gayle,

as revealed in an independent autopsy report. The police have claimed that they struck Mr Gayle after he attempted to disarm a soldier of his rifle.

Amnesty International has repeatedly documented its concerns regarding the use of excessive force by members of the Jamaican security forces.The organisation is particularly concerned about the rise in allegations of ill-treatment and of the use of excessive force by police and security force personnel, following the deployment of troops alongside police forces in 15 communities in July 1999. This measure was supposedly adopted to conduct vehicle spot checks, establish cordons and enforce curfews.

International human rights standards governing the use of force by law enforcement officials -- including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials -- emphasise that force may not be used unless strictly necessary and to the minimum extent required under the circumstances. Those same standards also clearly indicate that lethal force must not be used unless strictly unavoidable and that extrajudicial executions or ' disappearances must not be carried out, ordered or covered up.

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