Right Steps & Poui Trees

INDECOM: Selection of the New Commissioner?

Terrence Williams - Commissioner of INDECOM at press conferenceThe contract of the current Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) comes to an end in a few days time. Commissioner Terrence Williams, INDECOM’s first commissioner, has provided the body with strong leadership in its first ten years of existence. There will be time to review his time in office, the course he has charted for the organization and the significant impact it has had since it came into being in 2010.

But in this short blog post, I want to raise the issue of the appointment of the next Commissioner of INDECOM. At this point, a few days before the current Commissioner leaves office, the public has no idea who the new Commissioner will be. We have no idea if the selection process has begun. If it has begun, we have no idea what stage it is at. In all likelihood, we will wake up one morning to the announcement that the Governor-General has appointed the new Commissioner and we will at that point be told the name of the person selected to lead this very important Commission of Parliament.

This is because the INDECOM Act follows the formula for appointment of a number of public posts both in the Constitution and in some legislation. In this case it is appointment by the Governor General after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The formula varies for different posts. But what is common to all is that the public isn’t privy to the process, but merely receives the news of the appointment when someone who is part of the process tells us.

The process for appointment of the Commissioner of INDECOM is set out in Section 3(2) of the INDECOM Act:

“The Commission shall consist of a Commissioner, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General by instrument under the Broad Seal, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, from persons of high integrity, who possess the qualifications to hold office as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica.”

INDECOM Act selection of Commissioner

Is this an appropriate formula for a modern democracy? The issue has been raised before in regard to other posts. Perhaps it is time for this formula to be reviewed and replaced by more transparent processes. This may be harder to do where it appears in the Constitution, but not as hard when it appears in ordinary legislation.

We may indeed have the appointment of an excellent person for the post of the new Commissioner. But it shouldn’t come in the form of a surprise fait accompli. Not in the year 2020.





Constitutional Court Strikes Down Jamaica’s National Identification (#NIDS) Act

In a far-reaching judgment delivered this morning, Jamaica’s Constitutional Court declared the National Identification and Registration Act, 2017 to be “unconstitutional, null, void and of no legal effect. The consequence of this is that the statute is struck down from the laws of Jamaica.” (Press Summary, p. 3 [5])

The full press summary is available here: Press summary of judgment in Julian J Robinson vs The Attorney General of Jamaica – April 2019NIDS press summary blog pic 4-19

The full judgment has been posted on the Supreme Court website (click here). The website also has an audio recording of Chief Justice Sykes delivering the judgment.NIDS judgment on website blog pic

I have also included a copy of the full judgment here: Robinson, Julian v The Attorney General of Jamaica – judgment 12-4-19NIDS judgment blog pic

There is much to be said about this ruling and its implications. But here is the information to start with…


10 Things to Think About or Do on December 10, Human Rights Day…And After

You don’t need to be a front line human rights defender to become involved in human rights. You may already be involved in human rights work or you may never have considered becoming involved before. There’s always more to learn and know, always something to do. Here are a few suggestions of things you could do today, on Human Rights Day, or afterwards.

  1. Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Or listen to a recording of it being read by Eleanor Roosevelt. udhr coverOr download an illustrated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Illustrated.
  2. Learn about other human rights conventions, covenants, declarations, treaties, etc., including the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
  3. Take The Elders’ human rights quiz & find out how well you know what rights we do & don’t have! Elders quiz 1
  4. Take a look at the Constitution of Jamaica, including Chapter 3: Charter of Fundamental Rights & Freedoms. Consider what protections of human rights it provides for.
  5. Find out which human rights treaties in the United Nations system your country has signed & ratified. un treaties
  6. Support a local, national, regional or international human rights organization. Support can come in different forms. Join. Volunteer. Participate in their campaigns. Attend their events. Make a donation. Read & share their literature. Follow them on social media.
  7. Speak out. Write a letter. Sign a petition. Call a radio programme. Start a conversation in your family, community, social group, church, organization. Attend a demonstration or protest with your poster/sign/placard.
  8. Learn about the life and work of people who have stood for the protection of human rights. tutu-headshot
    At different times. plaza de mayo cropped-743761In different places. sabeen-mahmud For different reasons.
  9. Plan a visit to Parliament or court. Both are institutions which are supposed to play a role in the protection of human rights.
  10. Donate your time in ways that support people who have experienced human rights abuses or who are at risk. Stay informed. Follow  organizations & individuals on social media. Listen to/watch news reports. Read the newspapers. It’s impossible to follow or be involved in every issue, so choose one or a few to focus on.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights! 

Happy Human Rights Day!