People’s National Party (PNP) candidate in St Catherine North West, Hugh Graham, has suggested that operations by the security forces in the constituency possibly breach human right principles, adding that he does not support the manner in which the state of public emergency is being executed in the area.
“I would like to state my support for the security forces to be present in North West St Catherine, but not in its current execution,” he declared in a statement last evening, December 14.
Graham, who raised concern mainly about the detention of constituents and the search of properties, questioned the existence of a tribunal to review cases of detention.
“The manner in which the state of emergency is conducted in North West St Catherine raises serious issues which the authorities ought to keep in perspective,” he further said.
“Among these [issues] are alleged potential excesses from the security forces in the way they search and detain persons within the constituency; alleged property rights violations where authorities are conducting searches of homes without search warrants; [and] the detainment of suspects – especially given the fact that the conditions are deplorable.”
Graham cautioned that, although a state of public emergency naturally limits the enjoyment of individual rights and freedoms, it does not justify human right violations.
“…I am very concerned that the rights of the people are taken away or suspended in a manner not consistent with human rights principles…” he posited.
“At this time, I would like to remind the Government that Jamaica is a party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984, and as such human rights are regarded of the highest status of rights, and ought not to be abrogated in a manner contrary to the goals set out to be achieved – a safe, free and fair country for all Jamaicans.”
Graham noted some possible repercussions of the alleged human right violations. “The impact of the disregard for rights has serious psychological effects on the individual, and even a long lasting impact on their livelihood – where innocent people who are arrested and detained for long periods may lose their jobs or livelihood…” he said.
Graham, in the meantime, indicated that, outside the alleged breaches of human rights, there was need for the state of public emergency in the constituency he seeks to represent in parliament.
“Crime in some parts of the constituency such as Linstead, Bog Walk, Ewarton and even Lluidas Vale have risen to alarming numbers which is of concern to ordinary citizens and businesses…” he reasoned. “It is undeniable that, in a serious crisis situation, to restore peace and order, we have had to resort to a state of emergency which, unfortunately, has the consequence of limiting the enjoyment of individual rights and freedoms.”
Graham, who also is Councillor for the Lluidas Vale Division of the St Catherine Municipal Corporation, declared that he welcomes the crime reduction recorded since implementation of the states of public emergency.
His party this week voted against the government’s attempt to further extend the three states of public emergency, citing alleged human right violations among reasons for its new posture.
One consequence of that vote by the PNP is that the state of public emergency, which started in the St Catherine North Police Division on March 18, will end on 2 January 2019.
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