Address by Terrence F. Williams
Delivered at Christ Church in Vineyard Town
on April 15, 2018
held as a part of the Commission’s 8th anniversary celebrations
Human Rights can seem like an abstract notion particularly when there is no personal experience of a right being breached. If it is not affecting me why should I care?
Often times when we hear of persons complaining of being abused we sometimes tend to prejudge by making assumptions based on their age, sex and socio-economic background.
Our Security Forces must have the monopoly in using force, this is important for our nation. But with that authority they must be fair and accountable. The procedures of justice must equally apply to them. The perpetual cycle of citizen disrespect for justice and security force impunity makes a nation ungovernable.
At INDECOM, we have recognized that our highest demographic of complainants are men, aged 20-35 years. This is not surprising. It is imperative that we make every effort to guide and encourage our youth regarding their rights and responsibilities as residents and citizens of Jamaica. This year INDECOM will reach out to young persons who often interact with the police. We shall listen, then engage to focus primarily on changing the mindset of our youth regarding their appreciation of Jamaican Justice, the importance of truth and the value of accountability.
As we journey this week we will meet with trainee police recruits, young men at a Heart Academy, younger men in a correctional institution, and university students who are members of Circle K in Western Jamaica. We will encourage our young people that Jamaican Justice means something and that justice is a journey for us all.
It is now 8 years since the passage of the INDECOM Act and 7 years for the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. We must think of rights as a solemn promise in recognition of our shared humanity. We are all equal under the law, we must have the truth.
At INDECOM, we are one of the stewards of the promise made by the State that the rights of all citizens will be respected and protected. We are committed to Jamaica’s promise. We will continue to be unrelenting in our pursuits of both principles. It is too important. Accountability isn’t only for INDECOM, the Government or heads of the Security Forces. It is for all Jamaicans.
Eight years ago we assessed what went wrong in the past. The miscarriages of justice could not be repeated. These miscarriages had common themes that fostered impunity. First, Security Force members’ accounts would be submitted weeks or months after the incident, if at all. It is now well settled that these accounts will be provided within hours.
Secondly, scenes of security force involved shootings were not processed promptly, if at all. It is now routine that these scenes will be examined by independent, internationally certified forensic professionals within hours. Thirdly, the procedure for access to the courts for cases against Security Force members was much more onerous than for cases that the police bring against the ordinary citizen. Resolving this issue remains a work in progress.
Security Force accountability does not derogate from their effectiveness. The popular view that the ends will justify the means has always been a lie.
Reports are that the State of Emergency in St. James has seen an over 50% reduction in violent crimes. During this period Security Forces- involved fatal shootings in St. James also declined. In that parish there was one incident resulting in three deaths for the period January to March 2018, compared to 11 deaths and one injury for the period October to December 2017. An accountable Security Force is an effective Security Force.
INDECOM celebrates this INDECOM Week recommitting itself to its work; as it is an important one. I wholeheartedly thank my staff for their continued dedication. We took an oath, and we will always act according to the law as we endeavour to ensure that the security force oversight is robust and effective.
The staff of INDECOM did not join for a sinecure. We are joined in this uncompromising campaign to reveal the truth.