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The Voice

JFJ accuses government of cover-up
published: Friday | November 5, 2004


GOMES

Robert Hart, Staff Reporter

DR. CAROLYN Gomes, executive director of the human rights lobby group Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), yesterday accused the government of colluding with elements of the security forces to prevent the administration of justice in extra-judicial killings.

At a JFJ press briefing at the Stella Maris Church, St. Andrew, Dr. Gomes presented a JFJ report which, she said, shows that several police and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) killings over the past five years have been mishandled as
a result of poor collection and contamination of evidence, inadequate post-mortem procedures, and a host of other failings.

"I am becoming increasingly convinced," Dr. Gomes said. "If the government has knowledge of these failures and has not moved to correct them, then it is in collusion with the failings."

PROFESSIONAL JURORS

The government, she added, has been repeatedly told of the problems within its security and judicial systems.

Dr. Gomes pointed to what she said was an abundance of 'professional jurors' who participate in the Coroner's Court. The jurors, she said, were persons who are regularly recycled by police officers responsible for serving summonses for jury service.

Noting that jury payment of $500 per day is above the minimum wage, she suggested that such jurors could be influenced to support the security forces' version of events as they seek to ensure their own continued selection for service.

FAMILIAR FACES

The juror issue, she argued, has not changed, despite being brought to the government's attention at least three years ago.

"Up to this week, there are familiar faces in the benches at the Coroner's Court," Dr. Gomes said.

The report, entitled 'Pattern of Impunity', was presented by Dr. Gomes and Tasha Rodney, JFJ legal counsel, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR) at a hearing in the United States last week.

"JFJ had requested the opportunity to present this report because of our deep concern at the negligible pace of reform of the police and judicial systems, by the government, despite their knowledge of the problems," Dr. Gomes said.

However, she said the JFJ has left it to the ICHR to determine its own course of action.

Gordon Shirley, Jamaica's ambassador to the United States, was also present at the hearing.

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