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Open letter regarding the commission of enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre
Published on April 11, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Justice Minister Mark Golding, Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, et al.

I write on behalf of the Tivoli Committee to raise certain questions in relation to the government's planned commission of enquiry (COE) into the 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre.

First of all, we strongly believe that the question of the State's responsibility for criminal property damage (including theft), and physical injuries inflicted upon residents by the security forces should be the subject of a separate enquiry.

Term of reference (O) which seeks to find out whether "monies, benefits or compensation were provided by the State to compensate residents of Western Kingston including Tivoli Gardens" is redundant since the present government is in possession of documents which show that the Bruce Golding government accepted State liability by paying out $90 million for funeral grants, market damage, personal property damage etc. to some residents.

We believe that in order to properly determine the remaining number of affected residents (not excluding those who were inadequately compensated), requires extensive interviews, factual verification, and the cross checking of ministry and other data. Such an exercise cannot be properly carried out by an Enquiry which has time limits and which is tasked with unearthing information, among other things, on those responsible for the massacre of so many people.

If it has been detected that there was any irregularity in payments made, the government has the administrative and other means at its disposal to get to bottom of the matter. This is an involved process. And it supports our point of view that this investigation should be done separately, and speedily, to address the suffering being experienced by affected residents.

In addition, the question of compensating those who suffered injuries from security forces sniper fire, and indiscriminate firing of JDF mortar (a criminal act) should, we believe, be addressed and be part of this separate investigation.

We trust that you will recognize the wisdom of this suggestion and make the necessary changes.

Furthermore, we believe that the terms of reference are not in accordance with holding accountable those who had effective command responsibility for the massacre.

As we have publicly stated on numerous occasions, we believe that the two main civilian commanders -- former prime minister Bruce Golding and former minister of national security Dwight Nelson, and the security forces commanders Major General Stuart Saunders and police commissioner Owen Ellington -- bear overwhelming responsibility and should be the main target of the enquiry. This approach is needed in keeping with established international law precepts on command responsibility.

Finally, we believe that the government should give an undertaking to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court to make a determination based on the evidence unearthed by the enquiry as to whether these individuals have criminal charges to answer under international criminal law.

It is not too late to make the necessary adjustments to the terms of reference both in relation to the matter of compensation and criminal liability.

In addition, we also urge that any commissioner appointed to replace Velma Hylton, should be someone with experience in international criminal law and human rights laws. Otherwise, even with impressive credentials, commissioners without such requisite experience will be unable to address the full scope of what transpired in 2010.

We look forward to your response and the opportunity to engage in dialogue.

Regards,

Lloyd D'Aguilar
Tivoli Committee
 
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