FOURTEEN people detained under the state of public emergency declared by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on January 18 for the parish of St James, have filed objections with the Emergency Powers Review Tribunal.
The objections were made before the tribunal following the gazetting of detention orders issued by National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang on April 20. According to a release issued by the panel yesterday, it resumed sittings in the parish capital of Montego Bay last Monday, where evidence related to the objections was heard.
The tribunal — which is chaired by attorney-at-law Ian Wilkinson — is scheduled to continue hearing objections this week. The other members of the body, which was set up under the Emergency Powers Act, are: Justice Lloyd Hibbert, retired Supreme Court Judge; and attorney-at-law Dr David Henry.
The tribunal, whose members were appointed by the governor general and the chief justice, reviews cases of detention or restriction under the Emergency Powers Act, and is obligated to report to the minister of national security its findings on every objection, and include recommendations regarding the necessity or expediency of continuing a detention.
Based on these findings, the minister may direct the competent authority to review its decision; or direct that the order remain in force, revoke, or vary the order. A “competent authority” refers to the governor general, the minister himself, the chief of defence staff, the commissioner of police, a deputy commissioner, or the senior police officer of a parish.
The House of Representatives on January 30 approved a resolution moved by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to extend the state of public emergency in St James to August 2, in a bid to quell killings in the crime-burdened parish which ended 2017 with 335 murders.
A state of emergency was also declared on March 18 for the St Catherine North Police Division, for an initial two weeks, and was extended until July 3, with the approval of Parliament. Making the declaration at Jamaica House, Holness said the state of emergency was necessary as violence and murders, especially, had been escalating in the police division. The division had, at the time, recorded close to 50 murders since the start of the year, mainly due to gang activity the prime minister said.
During a state of emergency, the police and military have the power to search and curtail the operating hours of business, access places and detain people without a warrant.
As set out in the 2018 regulations to the Emergency Powers Act, an authorised person may stop, arrest, or detain — pending inquiries — any person “whose behaviour is of such a nature as to give reasonable grounds for suspecting” that he has acted or is acting in a manner which is prejudicial to public safety; or has committed, is committing or is about to commit an offence.
It further states that individuals so detained for three months without charges being brought against them must be released or brought before a parish judge, “to be entered into a recognizance and find sureties to keep the peace, or to be of good behaviour”.
Additionally, people using roads leading in and out of the parish of St James are subject to vehicle and personal search, and individuals may also be stopped at various checkpoints. The military or police may seize anything found, which they suspect is being, or could be used for any purpose which threatens public safety or order.
Source : http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/14-detainees-file-objections-with-review-tribunal_135646?profile=0