Monday, April 14, 2014

Tivoli COE: Ballistic Testing Priority

The GOJ has announced a budget of $100m for the Tivoli Commission of Enquiry; in addition to identifying a replacement for Velma Hylton QC. However, whilst the the candidate's name has been forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition in the "consultation ritual", there is still no indication of the proposed start up date.

Of course it will be argued that such will depend, in part, on the availability of the Commissioners, the supporting staff, as well as the outstanding ballistics report - which its is said to have bedeviled the now retired Public Defender.

Interesting the tension between the Office of the Public Defender and the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) as to the apportionment of blame for the delay seemed to be resolved with the former (probably as a departing gift) sending copies of some 42 files to the latter (without the public being given any reasons).

These constitute the set that-- in the view of the Public Defender after analysing the respective post- mortem reports, along with other information gathered--- death could have been the result  extra-judicial killings by the members of the Security Forces involved in the operation,

                             Concern:   The Priority

It has been reported that at least 76 persons were killed during the operation.  Only some 42 have been identified by the Public Defender as possible " extra- judicial killings". Hence INDECOM has decided to "prioritize" the testing to those 42, citing the cost involved, plus the possibility that the tests of the others may not provide any useful information.

 The ballistic report has the potential for establishing scientifically from which weapon the fatal bullet was fired. The validity of the report depends to large measure on the integrity of the material collected, the conditions of its storage, the tests conducted with the weapons submitted for testing.

With so many variables are involved it is very likely  that some tests will prove "inconclusive" Given that 34 cases have been excluded before the comparison testing and assuming say a 50%  confirmation, then what the public is left with is a possible 21 cases linked to the Security Forces---a far cry from the reported 76-- a figure that has been said to be grossly underestimated.

  • Is that to be explained/dismissed as "collateral damage"?
  • What is the inference to be drawn regarding the 55-- which are not prioritized or tested "inconclusive"?
  • What scientific analysis will be undertaken of those 55?
There lies the possibility of a big "let down" in the eyes of an already cynical public.

The ballistics must be accompanied by the post-mortem reports. It is the latter that will provide the critical information surrounding the circumstance under which the 76 met their deaths.
With the passage of time eye witness evidence becomes increasingly unreliable. Greater reliance has  to be placed on scientific and documentary evidence.
Any sincere attempt to unearth the truth must take into account both the ballistic reports and the post- motems. The latter have been completed: we await the former with an informed expectation.

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