Freedom coming for some detained under SOEs

Freedom coming for some detained under SOEs

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, August 13, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Security Minister Dr Horace Chang says in the absence of any incriminating evidence against individuals who are detained under the current states of emergency (SOEs), they will be released when the security measure ends on Monday, August 17.

He, however, noted that the police will charge those who they have evidence against.

“Some of them will be charged, and those that are not charged will be released. [But] those who they have evidence against that can be charged will be charged; and they [police] have been charging a number of them,” Chang told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Dr Chang is hoping that the Police High Command will make the decision to start the process of releasing the detainees ahead of next Monday to avoid a mass release.

“… That is an internal system the Police High Command will work out. That is an internal issue,” Dr Chang argued.

Under the SOE, a person can be detained for up to 90 days without being charged.

On Tuesday, members of the House of Representatives agreed to end the current states of emergency (SOE) on August 17, minutes before Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the Tuesday, September 3 date for the holding of general elections.

Holness informed the House that he had already advised the governor general to dissolve Parliament on Thursday, August 13. Next Tuesday, August 18, will be Nomination Day.

Earlier, members united to vote 54 in favour of ending the SOEs, with eight absentees. The two-thirds majority gave Government the constitutional power to go ahead and end the SOEs. This followed the recent agreement between Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips to combine their effort with an oversight body made up primarily of private sector business operators and civil society activists.

The revocation of the SOEs and the zones of special operation was approved by the Senate yesterday.

On Monday, president of the Cornwall Bar Association Lambert Johnson expressed relief over the imminent ending of the states of public emergency (SOE) across the island to make way for the national polls.

“There are many persons who are of the view that the way in which the SOE has been executed has been oppressive to a certain segment of the society. So, I am sure that when it ends there will be persons who will be happy that it ended. And so, we are looking forward to the end,” Johnson said during an interview with the Observer.

He pointed to one of the challenges with which members of his association have been faced under the SOE was that individuals were still held in police custody, even after they were taken to court and granted bail.

“One of the principal challenges that we face is that persons would actually go to court on matters for which they are charged. They would be granted bail, both in the parish court and in the high court, and the police, in their wisdom, would determine that these persons should not see the light of day. The moment that they sign their bail bonds, they will be taken into custody, and that, to me, is one of the most egregious uses of the powers under the state of emergency,” argued the attorney.

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