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Jamaica security forces used excessive force in Tivoli siege

FLASHBACK: Security forces and members of the press in Tivoli Gardens in 2010.

FLASHBACK: Security forces and members of the press in Tivoli Gardens in 2010.

KINGSTON — Public Defender Earl Witter says evidence from his investigations into the May 2010 Tivoli Gardens incursion by the security forces suggests that “excessive or undue resort to lethal force” was used by the security forces during the operation.

Witter also admitted that it was still unclear how many people actually died in the security forces operation, although he listed 77 deaths, including one soldier, and expressed concern over whether the weapons the security forces allegedly discovered were actually taken from criminals. His 250-page report was tabled yesterday in the House of Representatives, after several delays.

“It must now be noted that disproportionality is also reflected in the ratio of civilian to state security forces fatality resulting from ‘incursion’ or ‘seige’ activities, suggesting that there was indeed excessive or undue resort to lethal force by those (security) forces,” the report said.

“Various JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) accounts about the ‘discovery’ etcetera of weapons of varying calibre, given at press conferences called in the weeks of and immediately following May 30, 2010, all came in the wake of the public defender expressing grave disquiet over the remarkable ratio of deceased to weapons ‘found’ or ‘discovered’. These claims should therefore be subjected to severe scrutiny,” he suggested.

“Put another way: the story behind the who, the where, the what, the when and wherefore and the how of each alleged find, should be put to the acid test of rigorous forensic examination,” he added.

The public defender said that he had no less than six reasons for holding this view:

* The time of the supposed find and the timing of its announcement;

* Evidence, albeit anecdotal, that most of those weapons actually came from the large stockpile of arms seized and maintained by the security forces, prior to and in operations entirely unrelated to the incursion;

* There appeared to be no arrest made or charges laid in connection with any of the alleged finds;

* Announcement of the “finds” or “discoveries” fit a pattern of the JDF making public pronouncements by way of damage control (quick fix or flip-flop responses to embarrassing disclosures about the conduct of army personnel during the incursion), for example, the use of mortar rounds or conflicting with earlier statements of their spokesmen for example the presence of;

* The role played by and the assistance derived from the US Department of Homeland Security surveillance aircraft during those operations; and

* It has not been suggested or alleged that any of the finds were made within Tivoli Gardens. (Observer)

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