Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Keith Clarke ruling affirms ‘no one is above the law’

Published:Wednesday | February 19, 2020 | 12:36 AMNickoy Wilson/Staff Reporter

Rodje Malcolm, executive director of human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), has welcomed yesterday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court describing it as “an important one for accountability in Jamaica”.

A three-member panel of judges yesterday described as “null, void and invalid” the immunity certificates signed and issued by then National Security Minister Peter Bunting in 2016 to three soldiers – Corporal Odel Buckley, Lance Corporal Greg Tinglin, and Private Arnold Henry – charged with May 27, 2010, murder of businessman Keith Clarke.

The court subsequently ordered that the criminal proceedings against the men continue.

“It affirms the principle that no one is above the law. It affirms that no single politician can remove from scrutiny or shield from scrutiny agents of the State, and that’s an important principle,” Malcolm said yesterday in an interview with The Gleaner.

He added: “The family and the public at large have an entitlement to figure out what happened and understand the truth and that’s what the court proceedings seek to uncover and assign accountability, and that simple process of assigning accountability is profoundly important in a democratic country.”

Clarke was shot 21 times and killed at his Kirkland Heights home during an operation purportedly conducted by the Jamaica Defence Force to capture drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

His shooting death came days after Coke escaped a joint police-military operation in his west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens in which at least 68 civilians and one soldier were killed. Some of the civilians were believed to be fighters loyal to Coke.

Meanwhile, Peter Bunting, who signed and issued the certificates on February 22, 2016, said he issued them in accordance with the legal advice he received. Patrick Atkinson, QC, was the attorney general at the time.

“As minister, in signing the good-faith certificates, I relied on the legal advice received and, therefore, could not have responsibly taken an administrative decision to deny the soldiers access to the certificates of good faith.

“The split decision by the court indicates that these are not clear-cut legal matters. I hope that the ultimate resolution of this aspect of the case will provide clear guidance for the future,” he said in a statement yesterday.