Emergency Powers Tribunal not to be blamed for controversy surrounding SOE detentions - Chairman

Ian Wilkinson, Chairman, Emergency Powers Review Tribunal for St. James, That's a Rap host Earl Moxam, and That's a Rap panelists Martin Henry and Judith Wedderburn on Sunday


Chairman of the Emergency Powers Review Tribunal for the State of Emergency (SOE), in St James, Ian Wilkson, says the tribunal has only received 24 detention orders from the Security Minister regarding objections by detainees, since it was set up in January.

Last week, the Parliamentary Opposition  withdrew its support for an extension of the State of Emergency in St James, citing human rights violations and conditions under which detainees are being kept.

More than 3,000 people have been detained under the SOE in St James. 

Speaking on RJR's weekly review programme, That's a Rap, Sunday afternoon, Wilkinson, said the Tribunal should not be blamed for the controversy surrounding the detention of individuals under the State of Emergency in St James. 

“It might not have been the intention of the draftsmen, it might not have been the intention of Parliament , the Governor General or the Prime Minister, but our jurisdiction was very limited in scope. In terms of a detention order, triggering action from the tribunal. In other words, without a detention order we are sitting and waiting ....” 

He also said that  the Tribunal has made several recommendations to the authorities to deal with the detention of persons under the SOE.

“There are several recommendations which we are making to improve the process going forward for future tribunals. For example, there is  a particularly problematic provision in the regulations which is regulation 30. Under regulation 30, someone can be detained for up to 14 days, for example,. With the intervention of a deputy Superintendent of police and a Senior Superintendent of police, they can get involved and extend that detention, until the duration of the SOE. Under that particular provision, we do not have jurisdiction. What the regulation says, is that we must facilitate hearings as quickly as possible,” Wilkinson said. 

He added that of the 24 objections filed with the tribunal, 16 have been dispossed of and in some of the cases the tribunal ruled that the detainees remain in custody.

Mr. Wilkinson also admitted that members of the tribunal had some concerns about the conditions under which detainees were being held in detention facilities in St James.

“In a limited way what I can say is that we checked off a number of cells. More than 30 - we wanted to get an idea of the number of persons being held in each cell. We had concerns with a number of things, and we made those concerns known,” he said. 


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