SOPE woes ‘pile’ up

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ATTORNEYS JOIN FORCES FOR THE RIGHTS OF CITIZENS: Moderator of the Human Rights Town Hall Meeting, Mr. Clayton Morgan (third from left) sits on the panel with (from left) Attorneys-at-Law Michael Hemmings, Mr. Hugh Small, QC, and Miss Nancy Anderson.–Sashane Shakes photo

Sashane Shakes – Staff Reporter

As the battle between the Public Defender and the security forces rages, a recent report that a man suffering from hemorrhoids (pile) was denied the right to seek medical attention, has only added to the woes blitzing the security forces, especially as they have come under scrutiny for certain human rights violations under SOPE in St. James.

As a result, Attorneys-at-Law, in a joint effort with the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights (1998) Ltd., moved into high gear last Thursday, December 6, to educate the public on their rights as citizens while currently being under the State of Public Emergency. To that end, a townhall meeting was staged at the Mount Alvernia High School Auditorium, where,among other things, Attorney-at-Law, Michael Hemmings, outlined a particular individual’s experience while under police lockup, and used the opportunity to sensitize citizens on the violations which may occur.

Attorney Hemmings outlined that on the grounds of SOPE,which was declared in St. James in January this year, the fundamental human rights of citizens of St. James were, in some cases, unlawfully and severely breached by law enforcers. Given prior consent, he delved into the unsettling details of the hemorrhoid-affected individual.

Maintaining the man’s anonymity, Attorney Hemmings explained that the man in question was suffering from hemorrhoids (pile) when he was taken into custody. So severe was his condition that in a week’s time, he was expected to undergo a surgical operation, which was subsequently missed because of his detainment. Despite bringing this to his lawyer’s attention, who was then able to secure another surgery date, he again missed his appointment again. The reason given, that time, was that there were no vehicles available at the lockup to transport him.

Hemmings revealed that such negligence was in complete contravention of the rights afforded under the State of Emergency, which stipulate that any person who is arrested or detained shall have the right to communicate that he wants a visit by a spouse, a partner, a family member, a pastor, a religious councillor, a medical practitioner of his choice and he also must be given the opportunity to communicate with and retain an attorney.

Hemmings further explained that the law also outlined that any person deprived of his liberty shall be treated humanely and with respect.The inherent dignity of the person, he continued, was brazenly disregarded, as he was only allowed to use the bathroom only once per day. This was compounded by the fact that his condition required a certain application to his anus and no one would assist him with same. Additionally, the facility where he was being kept was unsanitary for that to be done. Yet, he was still there.

NOT CONSIDERED FOR BAIL

To add insult to injury, the individual was not considered for bail, despite the fact that presently, our law states that where a person is arrested, he ought to be charged for an offence within 24 hours and the issue of bail ought to be dealt with. However, he was detained for more than seven (7) days, with an extension of seven (7) additional days, and was still held, despite the absence of a detention order served to keep him detained.

Under the SOPE, you can be detained initially for seven (7)days and by way of an extension, granted by a Deputy Superintendent of a Police, an additional 7 days can be added. You can be held for 3 months without a charge being proffered against you, provided that there is a detention order that is served.

Other breaches of the individual’s rights were that he was not charged for any offence whatsoever when he was taken into custody on the 14th of February, when he was being held under the SOPE. “Now imagine being in custody for 3 months, no charge, no question and answer, no identification parade whatsoever. This particular individual, we made an objection to his detention,” said Hemmings.

He continued: “The application to be heard with regards to his objection was not heard until June 11. To make matters worse, his objection was heard in June and the tribunal ruled that he was to be released. He was not released until September,and at the end of the day, he was released without as much as a charge against him because they didn’t have a scintilla of evidence to charge this man and put him before the court.”

Hemmings, who has secured the release of over 100 persons locked up under the SOPE, was addressing citizens of St. James at a Human Rights Town Hall Meeting held at the Mt Alvernia High School Auditorium on Thursday, December 6, 2018. The town hall was held in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is being celebrated today.

Other panelists were Hugh Small, who presented on ‘The Right to a Healthy Environment’ and Miss Nancy Anderson, Attorney-at-Law and member of the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights, who delivered a piece entitled ‘Every Baddy a Smaddy.’

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