JFJ says latest declaration flies in face of court; lobby watching for rights breaches
Human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is warning the Government that it will be watching to ensure that there are no breaches of citizens’ rights under the recently declared state of emergency (SOE) for the entire parish of St...
Human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is warning the Government that it will be watching to ensure that there are no breaches of citizens’ rights under the recently declared state of emergency (SOE) for the entire parish of St Catherine.
The special security measure was declared in response to the latest upsurge in violence in the Spanish Town area.
“We absolutely remain committed to that, always. We have our ears on the ground with clients who have been victims of police abuse in the past and we will be listening and engaging and ensuring that we keep the Government to account that no citizen will see their human rights infringed upon,” said Mickel Jackson, executive director of JFJ.
She said the JFJ does not believe the Government’s use of the SOE is constitutional.
“The state of public emergency is accounted for in the Constitution, but under specific and limited circumstances such as natural disasters and the State being at war with another. We believe the declaration of state of public emergency is in scant regard for the independence of the court and their decision on certain matters,” said Jackson, who also highlighted the timing of the announcement of the imposition of the special security measure.
Just over two hours after Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the SOE for St Catherine on Friday, the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling, upholding the challenge brought by St James resident Roshaine Clarke against the State for breaches of his rights during the 2018 SOE imposed on the western parish.
The court declared the Emergency Powers Regulations unconstitutional, and ruled that the security measure infringed on Clarke’s rights under the Constitution.
“The Roshaine Clarke decision was to be announced at 11 a.m. and the Government saw it fit to announce a state of public emergency at 8:30 a.m., which is indicative of its lack of respect yet again towards the court,” the JFJ boss asserted.
Despite the legal issues dogging the use of SOEs, the Holness administration may head to Parliament to seek an extension for the current enhanced security measure in effect for the entire parish of St Catherine. The SOE was implemented on the advice of the chiefs of the joint force.
Dr Horace Chang, deputy prime minister and minister of national security, told The Sunday Gleaner that a decision on whether to seek an extension will also be taken on the advice of the security chiefs. He said the initial 14 days allowed under the regulations may not be sufficient to do what needs to be done.
“It will go a long way in stabilising things but I doubt it will be enough to apprehend all the violence producers. We need to take them off the streets for some time for the population to regain their full confidence. I expect they’ll need an extension,” said Chang.
The national security minister said intelligence reports on the situation on the ground in the parish will be prepared on a daily basis. Dr Chang believes law and order can be returned to Spanish Town and its environs.
“The police and military have extremely high-quality intelligence. Spanish Town has the largest body of organised criminal gangs. If you dismantle them you can get restoration of order,” he said.
According to Chang, he spoke with members of the Opposition People’s National Party – Mark Golding, Peter Bunting and Fitz Jackson – about the recently declared SOE.
He said it was agreed that the police commissioner would brief the Opposition ahead of any discussion about a possible extension.
“I am sure when they see the intel brief it would be a better time to discuss the way forward. It will be done before the 14 days expire. We are willing to work with them. If they oppose we will be disappointed,” the national security minister said.
Meanwhile, JFJ’s Jackson noted that community policing and the dismantling of politically affiliated garrisons are better solutions to the country’s crime problem than the use of SOEs.