Right Steps & Poui Trees


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JCF Administrative Review Committee Clears JCF…Of Pretty Much Everything

Two days ago (August 8, 2017) Commissioner of Police George Quallo released the “Report of Administrative Review Committee Appointed to Review Conduct of JCF Named Officers During the 2010 West Kingston Operation and Related Matters”.

 

(Click for JCF West Kingston Administrative Review Committee Report – June 2017)

Since the release, there has been increasing discussion of the report, with expressions of criticism and concern. I have been among those expressing concerns as, having read the report, I believe it raises questions of process, substance and tone. I think that beyond the report itself, there is also the consideration of its wider impact on issues of post-Commission of Enquiry processes and of police accountability.

The Committee started its review on February 28, 2017 and concluded on June 19, 2017, having had eleven sittings. Its Terms of Reference (TOR) were as follows:JCF Administrative Review Committee TORThe members of the Committee were:JCF Admin Review Comm members

The findings of the Committee were as follows:

TOR 1

1a) 3.11 The Committee, having reviewed the Operations Plan, agreed that the Command Structure was appropriate for the task.

1b) 4.8 Having reviewed the Operations Plan, reports and statements of the JCF officers vital to the Terms of Reference, the Committee agreed that the Command Protocol was adequate.

1c & 1d) 5.10 Upon a thorough review of the conduct of the operation, the Committee agreed unanimously, that the span of control was clear and the span of command effective.

1e) 6.18 Despite the absence of the CIB participation and the delays occasioned by the prevailing circumstances, the Committee agreed that effective and adequate investigations were carried out in instances where deadly force was used.

6.19 The Committee finds that there was a system to ensure effective and adequate
investigations in the event of the resort to use of force by members of the JCF.

6.20 The Committee finds that the system was not followed according to the plan. However, the BSI rose to the occasion.

TOR 2

7.63 Upon a complete and thorough examination of the evidence, including, the Operation Plan, various reports, transcripts and statements; and for the reasons stated above, no basis could be found by the Committee, upon which any of the Named Officers should be cited for misconduct and/or dereliction of duty.

In the final account, the Committee found that the JCF, its systems, performance and members were “appropriate”, “adequate”, “clear”, “effective”, “effective”, “adequate”, “effective”, “adequate”, “rose to the occasion”, without basis to “be cited for misconduct and/or dereliction of duty”. The report and its findings give little indication of the kind of self-reflection that would be valuable to the police force following the events of 2010 and the report and recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry.  There is a sense of the-JCF-did-nothing-wrong-time-to-move-on.

As required by TOR 3, recommendations were given:JCF Admin Review Comm recommendations 1JCF Admin Review Comm recommendations 2

I have some questions about the process of the Administrative Review, including the following:

– In its June 30, 2016 press release responding to the Commission of Enquiry report, the JCF committed to establishing an Independent Administrative Review Panel which would be composed of  “one Deputy Commissioner of Police, the head of the Inspectorate of the Constabulary (IOC), one member of the Police Service Commission (PSC), one member of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA), and one independent person, preferably an attorney at law, to be selected by the PSC and PCOA.” Why was the proposed composition for the Panel not eventually followed?

– What were the reasons that resulted in the review taking eight months to begin?

– The Committee made an initial decision not to require any of the 5 named officers to appear before it and even when one member of the Committee made a formal request for two of the officers to appear, the majority decision was not to require this. What was the reasoning behind not making use of the presence of the officers to give additional clarity during the review process?JCF Admin Review Comm methodology

There are points at which the Committee’s tone seems to be defensive and dismissive in a manner that is not appropriate or useful. One such instance of this is in a section entitled “Other Evidence”.JCF Admin Review Comm - other evidence

The assertion in 7.44 that the Commission didn’t seem to be concerned with the dangerous nature of the operation and the heavy gunfire faced by officers on the ground is hard to understand if one watched the proceedings of the Enquiry or if one has read the Commission’s report. Chapter 4, for example, is squarely focused on this matter, and its contents and findings contradict this assertion in the Administrative Review Report.WKGN COE report Ch 4 pic

The assertion in 7.44 also seems to be dismissive of the concern with collection of bodies shown by the Commission. Scores of people died during the May 2010 operation, 69 according to the Commission’s findings. This was one of the most grave outcomes of the operation. It was absolutely necessary that the Commission devote attention to uncovering information that could assist in establishing the circumstances in which these people died. The collection of bodies was not something detached from this process, as the time, location and manner of such collection could contribute valuable information.

AHHThe Office of the Public Defender has been involved from the start in the process of seeking the truth about what happened in the May 2010 operation. It is not surprising that the current Public Defender, Arlene Harrison Henry, has issued a statement about the just released JCF report. In the statement, she calls for the withdrawal of the Administrative Review Committee report and she has indicated that her Office has written to the Attorney General for an opinion on the way forward. (Click for Office of the Public Defender – Press Release re JCF Administrative Review 2017)

There is more to be said and I will deal in subsequent posts with additional aspects of the Review report and its implications.

 

Related Post

When Will The Public See The JCF Administrative Review Report, Commissioner Quallo?


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While Waiting for the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry Report

May 24 will make 6 years since the 2010 joint security operation in West Kingston, which resulted in the death of more than 70 people, and by all indications the report of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry will be submitted to the Governor General before then. It isn’t yet clear, however, when the report will be made public. It would certainly be fitting if that were to happen before May 24.

The last session of the Enquiry took place between February 8 – 19 (2016) and was to a large extent overshadowed by the political campaigning leading up to the general election on February 25.

The Commission held its first sitting on December 1, 2014 and held a total of 90 sittings over 15 months. It was presided over by three commissioners – Sir David Simmons (Chairman), Justice Hazel Harris and Professor Anthony Harriott.

The Enquiry had specific Terms of Reference (Terms of Reference for the Commission of Enquiry into events which occured in Western Kingston and related areas in May 2010) and more than 90 witnesses gave testimony, including:

  • residents of West Kingston
  • former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, former Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson, former Attorney General & Minister of Justice Dorothy Lightbourne
  • former Chief of Defence Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Major General Stewart Saunders and other members of the JDF
  • former Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington and other members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force
  • former Public Defender Earl Witter, QC
  • other civilian witnesses, public officials and expert witnesses.

The release of the report will raise again for discussion the value of having had the Enquiry. In this regard, comments made by Lord Anthony Gifford, QC, who represented the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), are important; the comments were made on February 18, 2016, at the start of his final submissions to the Commission.

WKGNCOE Gifford 18-2-16

Seated behind Lord Anthony Gifford is Mrs Arlene Harrison-Henry, the current Public Defender

Lord Gifford thanked former Public Defender Earl Witter for having called for the Enquiry,and for his work on investigations towards  that end. He then went on to address the Chairman on the importance of holding the Enquiry:

Mr Chairman, we are going to be urging that you and your colleagues make strong findings in relation to a number of human rights abuses. We hope and trust that your report will be a historic document, which will reduce or eliminate such abuses in the future. But Mr Chairman, I would like to say publicly to those who have had doubts about the value of this enquiry that already the process, which has happened over the last  90 days (but in fact, year and a quarter) has had in itself immense value. And I say that for three reasons.

First of all, it has shown that an event which has cost around 70 lives in one operation cannot be swept under the carpet. It is legally a part of the duty of the state under the right to life, that when life is taken by agents of the state there must be a full and impartial enquiry. So that what has been done was necessary by the Constitution and by international principles.

And in the holding of it and the managing of it, I pay tribute to the even-handedness of you, Mr Chairman, and the intense interest, dedication that you all have shown, especially, may I say, at times when the argument has been robust or the scenes have been emotional. And coupled with thanks to you, I would thank your Secretary and all her staff for the efficient assistance which they have given.

It’s not just a question of law. The second value of the process so far has been that voices, it has enabled the voices of the residents, many residents of Tivoli Gardens to be heard. These are voices which are normally not heard but they have been heard over the last year, the length and breadth of Jamaica and further afield. And I thank the members of the media who have enabled the transmission of these hearings, to all those (and there are many) who have watched them or listened to them in their workplace or their homes. And those voices have been the heart of this enquiry. I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the civilian witnesses, who came forward, re-living the pain of their experiences as they spoke about the loved ones who are here no more. And I say to those witnesses, without your participation, this enquiry would have had little or no value.

Mr Chairman, thirdly, it has been valuable because this enquiry has required those who hold and have held some of the highest offices in the land to come here, account for their actions and be subjected to severe and intense questioning and scrutiny. That does not usually happen. People like the Chief of the General Staff and the Police Commissioner don’t often have to answer questions in justification of what they did. And the exercise has been very revealing. And that is why I wanted to say that, quite apart from the contents of your report, what has happened already has had value in recognizing the pain, the trauma and by re-living it and questioning it to make it bring some kind of understanding and, in due course, we hope closure.

(Transcript made from February 18, 2016 broadcast of Enquiry)

The Submissions and Recommendations made by the OPD are posted on its website, which is  welcome and useful. The OPD’s April 2013 Interim Report to Parliament is also available on the site.

OPD WKGNCOE submissions pic OPD Written Submissions to Commission of Enquiry

OPD WKGNCOE recommendations picOPD Recommendations to Commission of Enquiry

OPD Tivoli Interim Report picOPD April 2013 Interim Report to Parliament

Horace LevyHorace Levy has written an article summarizing the OPD’s Submissions and Recommendations, which can be accessed here.

The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry is part of a process. The publishing of the report will not signal the end of that process. It is one more step or milestone in a much longer journey towards accountability and justice for the largest loss of life in a single security operation in Jamaica since Independence (indeed, since the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865, though some object to this reference).