Contributor: Errol McLeish
Extrajudicial killings are the words often used to describe the many engagements of the Jamaican security forces, in particularly, the Jamaica Constabulary Force. It has wide meaning, but we will restrict our definition to the killing of a person by governmental authorities without any judicial proceedings or legal process.
This phenomenon is by no means unique to Jamaica; it has been prevalent in countries with serious human rights issues and implicitly sanctioned by some major developed democratic country’s law enforcement agencies. In particular the US. In the US, the killing of unarmed youths, the justification, police officers states that they think their lives were in danger. The killing of Bin laden , seen as being justifiable but still fits in .What I get from this last example is that certain countries , while condemning its use in other countries does not accept that their practices are extrajudicial killings it is euphemistically classified as justifiable homicide. Human rights groups turn a blind eye to these disturbing circumstances. Indeed, the Jamaican proverbs do find relevance here that “duppy know who fi frighten”
I must state categorically that the issues raised here, are not about the merits of its use in the US or any other country, it’s about the merit of its use in Jamaica. Is it a means to an end in a troubling environment where the informer culture prevents witnesses from coming forward and a system that lacks the resources to protect witnesses? Is this not the perfect situation for its implementation?
The practice has long been an accepted means to an end by the ordinary man on the street and by politicians in Jamaica and not surprisingly the Jamaican Police Force. This might seem shocking to most people but it is a fact. With the immense problems with solving crime and arresting criminals who commit the most heinous crimes, many people silently agree with the idea of the Police “taking out” some of these insensitive brutes. Decapitations, the killing of young children, and the fear they instill in the citizens of Jamaica .
The Police had strategically engaged in such practices in the 70’s onward to the 90’s. It was a period where the name brand detective’s reign and they did so not because of their investigative skills which were quite lacking. It was instead, viciousness and the implementation of hard policing that did the work, finding the offenders and take them out. If you were found with a gun you were guilty and taken out.
It was a testing time during that period in the force, and these activities were endorsed silently by the Force’s hierarchy by promotion. It was an effective tool, got the job done, removed the criminals from the street and at limited cost to tax payers. It did have its draw backs, many were killed innocently. There were no independent body to investigate and so many of these case were swept under the table.
Extrajudicial killing on the face of it, is morally reprehensible, but so too are many things that Governments have engaged in covertly. A country which has the resources to manage an effective criminal justice system, which includes witnesses safety, housing of criminals and an effective Judicial system which disposes of cases effectively can afford not to engage in such activities. A country like Jamaica which has immense problems the opposite to what I just described, should they not have the right to take out those who seek to create fear and anarchy within its borders. The problem and concerns are, can we trust the JCF given it’s history, to engage in such activities. Is it an effective means to an end considering the challenges and concerns that comes with it ? Solutions will have unforeseen consequences , is the time right for the pursuance of such a controversial solution? Perhaps so !