Amnesty Int’l, local groups raise concerns over Tivoli report delay

Thursday, January 17, 2013

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DISAPPROVAL of the delay in the completion of the report on the 2010 Tivoli Gardens incursion by the security forces, and calls for the resignation of public defender Earl Witter for his handling of the issue continues to grow.

Statements denouncing the delay were issued yesterday by international human rights activists, Amnesty International, the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) and Generation 2000 (G2K) — the young professionals arm of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party, .

In a letter sent from its London office to Jamaica's Speaker of the House of Representatives Michael Peart, Amnesty International said that the continued delay "could be letting people get away with murder".

"It is outrageous that nearly three years since the Tivoli Gardens killings, the Jamaican authorities are far from being able to answer the many questions that remain, " said Javier Zúñiga, special advisor at Amnesty.

"By failing to ensure that those responsible for the killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests that took place in Tivoli in 2010, the Jamaican authorities are simply sending the message that human rights abuses are permitted and won't be punished," he stated.

Amnesty noted that in July last year, Minister of National Security Peter Bunting had admitted that the Office of the Public Defender was understaffed to undertake that scale of investigation. But, Zúñiga said that if the problem is a lack of resources available to the public defender, the authorities should have addressed the issue long ago.

Amnesty also urged the Jamaican authorities to ensure that Parliament investigates the delays.

Meanwhile, the JCSC said it is "appalled and disappointed" that the public defender has missed another deadline to submit the report to Parliament.

"We find it unacceptable and call for an investigation into the situation at the Office of the Public Defender," the civil action group said.

"The long-awaited report, which should have been submitted yesterday after previously missed dates, has raised grave concerns regarding the Office of the Public Defender's capacity to carry out its mandate and the ability of M. Earl Witter to effectively lead that office. While the JCSC is mindful that at the time of the 'Tivoli Incursion', the Office of the Public Defender had received hundreds of complaints from citizens about misconduct by members of the security forces, a two-and-a-half-year wait for the report is justice being denied to the families of victims of the incursion," the JCSC stated.

The coalition appealed to Parliament to work closely with Witter to rectify the issues causing the delay, and to ensure every effort is made to have it ready and available by its next sitting.

And, G2K described as "reprehensible" the conduct of the Public Defender in respect to the non-tabling of the report.

"It is unacceptable that the Public Defender, with such such a critical role in our democracy, can be treating so lightly his duty to submit this critical report," G2K president Floyd Green said, pointing out that a number of Jamaicans have been significantly impacted by the events surrounding the incursion,requiring expediency on the part of the public defender in protecting and enforcing their rights.

He said that accountability in the society appeared to be lacking at all levels, and political officials and public servants must be held to acceptable standards.

"While our organisation appreciates the service of Mr Witter over the years, it is apparent that his office has been consumed by exigencies that have rendered him highly ineffective," Green commented.

G2K said that the significant delay threatens the credibility of the very report, has already resulted in people losing confidence in the Office of the Public Defender and called Witter to "do the right thing and step aside and allow Parliament to appoint someone who will get the job done".




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