Jamaica court says commission has power of arrest

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — A court ruled Tuesday that a Jamaican commission that investigates allegations of abuse by the island’s security forces has the power to arrest and charge accused police officers.

The Independent Commission of Investigations described the judgment by the Constitutional Court as a “major victory” after some three years of wrangling over the issue.

Jamaica’s police federation and three other police associations had filed a court application questioning the commission’s powers. It was filed after commission investigators arrested and charged a police corporal with the killing of Negril businessman Mickey Hill in 2010.

Three judges ruled for the commission, saying statute and common law does give it the power to arrest, charge and initiate prosecution. Their judgment says the Independent Commission of Investigations’ powers “in no way dilute” the authority of the public prosecutor.

Police federation officials did not return calls asking for comment.

The commission started operations in August 2010 after numerous complaints about a police agency called the Bureau of Special Investigations that was then responsible for investigating alleged wrongdoing by officers. Over the years, allegations of citizens’ rights abuses including excessive force and extrajudicial killings by security forces increased in the country of some 2.7 million people.

The Independent Commission of Investigations now has a case log of roughly 1,600 cases of alleged abuses, some dating back to 2008. More than 60 percent of these cases involve allegations of fatal shootings, assault and shooting injuries.

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