Jamaica: International Pressure Grows for Probe Into Tivoli Gardens Killings

Posted on June 8, 2010


Well, well, well Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), is calling for an independent investigation into the “shooting fest” by security forces in Jamaica.  Vivanco states that it is critical to determine whether the killings are the result of “excessive force” or “outright executions.”  Gee, Jose Miguel, I’m not sure if there is much difference given that a lot of people seem to have been killed because there was, no doubt, a shoot-to-kill order in effect. 

His assessment of the situation in Haiti from 2004 – 2006, as 8,000-10,000 people were being slaughtered by the National Police and the UN “peacekeepers” was that the Aristide supporters were the main problem, the police were working under such tough conditions they often screwed up and killed unarmed people, and the UN mission got off to a slow start but got things rolling when it began to attack poor neighborhoods (July 6, 2005, UN attack on Cite Soleil by 300-400 “peacekeepers” resulting in 30 dead and twice that many wounded.) 

Keep an eye on Vivanco and HRW.


More international pressure for Tivoli probe

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday June 7, 2010 – Residents of Tivoli Gardens, the Kingston neighbourhood that was a battleground between lawmen and gunmen loyal to a wanted man last month, are getting more international backing for their demands for investigations into alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces.

Amnesty International has already put on record a call for a thorough probe. Now Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Jamaican authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations.

The group said, in a statement released to the media, that it has received credible reports from local human rights advocates indicating that some of the more than 70 deaths in a joint police and military operation to arrest alleged illegal drug trafficker Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke may have involved extrajudicial executions of civilians by members of the security forces. 

It said that in several instances, witnesses reported seeing soldiers shoot unarmed men at point-blank range.  

“An independent and impartial investigation is critical to determine whether any of the killings were in fact the result of excessive force or outright executions,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. 

In addition to Tivoli residents’ complaints, Public Defender Earl Witter, who was asked to conduct an independent assessment of the operations, last week complained that crime scenes where alleged extrajudicial killings took place were not being properly preserved so that forensic evidence could be gathered. His office is retaining the services of independent forensic pathologists and radiologists to carry out its own investigations.

HRW has pointed out that the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provides that law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. 

Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, it added, law enforcement officials shall use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. 

But local police have defended their actions in the Tivoli operation.

“The Jamaica Constabulary Force has a very robust human rights policy that we adhere to. All our officers and men are briefed daily. Every time they are assembled for duty they are briefed on the need to show respect for the rights of persons,” acting deputy commissioner of police in charge of crime, Glenmore Hinds, is quoted by the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

“The truth is, this is a battle, the likes of which Jamaica has never seen, and I don’t think that is much appreciated,” said Hinds. “It’s a credit to the security forces that more people were not killed.”