Jamaica Probes Police Abuse Complaints After 74 Killed in Druglord Search
Jamaican investigators are investigating complaints of abuses by police who clashed with gunmen in west Kingston in their manhunt for a druglord sought by the U.S., public defender Earl Witter said.
Residents have alleged police burned or buried bodies to hide evidence of civilian killings after gunbattles during the manhunt left 74 dead, said Witter, who heads the parliamentary ombudsman office.
“Our office is investigating the conduct of the security forces,” Witter said by phone today. He set up an office in west Kingston to check out complaints.
Police trying to arrest Christopher “Dudus” Coke for extradition to the U.S. on drug- and arms-trafficking charges have denied any wrongdoing after Amnesty International called for a “thorough” probe into alleged illegal killings.
The six-day manhunt has prompted resorts to boost security amid tourist cancelations and has Prime Minister Bruce Golding defending himself against claims he is associated with Coke. ABC News, citing U.S. government documents, has reported Golding is a “criminal affiliate” of Coke’s.
Opposition lawmaker Peter Brunting has said Golding should resign because he gave Coke’s gangs time to arm themselves as he delayed carrying out the U.S. extradition request for months.
Tourists canceled 300 hotel rooms on the Caribbean island since Golding declared a state of emergency May 23, according to Jamaica’s Hotel and Tourism Association.
The violence was concentrated in the capital, with no unrest near the golf courses, beaches and resorts that tourists visit on Jamaica’s north coast, Ellington said.
Coke, 41, is accused by the U.S. of being the kingpin of an international criminal group known as the “Shower Posse,” with members in Jamaica and the U.S. Coke’s lawyers have denied any wrongdoing by their client.
“Criminal elements” from across Jamaica descended on west Kingston this week to defend Coke from arrest, police commissioner Owen Ellington said in a statement e-mailed today. Some of Coke’s gunmen may have tried confusing police by dressing as females during the fighting, Ellington said.
Ellington said police didn’t burn or bury bodies. He said police placed bodies in advanced state of decomposition in coffins to prepare for burial amid health concerns.
Ellington said he suspects Coke may still be in Jamaica. Two police officers and an army official died, eight others suffered gunshot wounds, and two police stations were burned to the ground in this week’s clashes, Ellington said.