By Taneka Thompson
Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Human rights organization Amnesty International on Thursday called for an independent body to investigate police “abuses” in The Bahamas after two men died in custody last weekend.
Amnesty said the deaths underscored the “urgent need for greater accountability” of alleged wrongdoing by police.
Amnesty said the deaths of Jamie Smith, 20, and Aaron Rolle, 33, were examples of alleged “human rights abuses” at the hands of police.
“The circumstances of the men’s deaths and the reasons for their original detention are still unclear,” said Javier Zúñiga, special advisor at Amnesty International, in a statement.
The statement noted that Amnesty had documented several alleged “human rights abuses” by police officers. Zúñiga said many victims of police abuse do not receive justice.
“Their deaths are the latest examples of alleged human rights abuses by police including similar fatalities in police custody or alleged unlawful fatal shootings [that] have occurred in recent years.
“The continuous lack of justice for unlawful killings at the hands of the police shows that the authorities are not doing enough to ensure that investigations are thorough, independent, impartial and timely,” Zúñiga added.
Coroner Linda Virgill is investigating the deaths; however, Amnesty cited the Coroner’s Court’s backlog and lack of resources.
Zúñiga urged authorities to put serious consideration into the creation of an independent body to look into allegations of police abuse and outfit the organization with adequate resources.
“This would ensure not only greater efficiency in the investigations, but would also help restore public confidence in the police force,” Zúñiga said.
The statement said Amnesty had documented several alleged “human rights abuses” by police officers.
“At least six people were reported to have been killed by police in disputed circumstances in 2012 and at least one man died in police custody,” said Zúñiga.
Amnesty also noted that 243 complaints were made against police in 2012, of which 128 were complaints of assault.
Smith died on Friday at the Central Detective Unit. He was a suspect in an armed robbery investigation.
Rolle died on Saturday morning at Quakoo Street Police Station. He was being held in connection to a housebreaking investigation.
Several police officers have been placed on leave until Virgill completes her investigation, Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage said on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Free National Movement (FNM) chairman Darron Cash called for an independent inquiry into those deaths.
He also called for an inquiry into the deaths of others who have died at the hands of police since the last general election.
On Monday, Nottage said he understands the public’s concern over the deaths, but cautioned against rushing to judgment until investigations are complete.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian