By Aabigayle McIntosh
A well-known lawyer is suggesting strategies to address the problem of extrajudicial killings in Antigua and Barbuda, aiming to rebuild trust within the police force. Leon Chaku Symister is expressing concern about the lack of openness in investigations concerning this issue, as well as the quietness of the religious community and similar organizations. The issue has come to the forefront once again due to the recent death of Mannie James, a father of two who was fatally shot last month in the midst of a high-stakes police pursuit.
“There has been no word from the Ministry of Justice or the Commissioner of Police regarding the circumstances under which this recent incident occurred [July 31, 2023], or the other 9 persons who were deprived of their lives.
“There have been no calls from the Christian Council, the Evangelical Association, the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association, Trade Unions, or other professional organisations for explanations from the authorities. As it was in 2014, it continues today: dead silence from a former president and InterAmerican Human Rights Commission Commissioner”, Symister said.
The Attorney emphasized that the era of overlooking the actions of law enforcement personnel beyond legal boundaries is over. He proposed that addressing this issue should involve comprehensive training and retraining of officers. Furthermore, he recommended that individuals implicated in extrajudicial killings should be promptly removed from active duty, while also advocating for swift access to psychological support services.
“An investigation should commence almost immediately, and the scene of the incident be treated as a crime scene until an investigation shows it should not be,” he noted.
Symister went on to add that it is essential for the investigation’s outcomes to be quickly disclosed. This step is crucial in rebuilding public trust in the police force’s activities and enhancing the overall professionalism of its members. He emphasized that allowing misconduct among a small number to go unchecked could lead to more severe wrongdoing affecting a larger portion of the force.