Jamaica

Human Rights in Jamaica

Amnesty International  Report 2013


The 2013 Annual Report on
Jamaica is now live »

Head of state Queen Elizabeth II, represented by
Kenneth Hall

Head of government Bruce Golding
Death penalty retentionist
Population 2.7 million
Life expectancy 72.2 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 18/16 per 1,000
Adult literacy 79.9 per cent

There were high rates of murder and police killings in socially excluded inner-city communities. The government initiated some reforms to the police and justice system to tackle the security crisis. Discrimination and violence against women and people in same-sex relationships were widespread. At least one person was sentenced to death; there were no executions.

Background

In the context of the public security crisis, a reported 1,611 people were murdered. The majority of victims were from marginalized inner-city communities. A raft of so-called “anti-crime” bills – including extension of police powers of arrest, increases in bail periods and minimum sentences for gun-related crimes – remained before Parliament at the end of the year. National human rights organizations questioned the constitutionality of some of the bills’ provisions and expressed concerns that the proposed extra police and judicial powers could lead to abuse. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited Jamaica in December. In its preliminary observations the Commission stated it had witnessed an “alarming level of violence” which affected all sectors of society, and pointed to continued shortcomings in the security forces and justice system as well as widespread corruption and poverty as the principal causes for the deteriorating public security situation.

"Thirteen-year-old Jevaughn Robinson was fatally shot in the head by members of a police patrol..."

Police and security forces

The rate of police killings fell but remained high with 222 people allegedly killed by police. Many occurred in circumstances suggesting that they were unlawful, despite frequent police claims that they were a result of shoot-outs with criminal gangs.

Government efforts to address police impunity and lack of accountability included parliamentary discussions on a draft bill to create an independent commission to investigate abuses by the security forces. These were still ongoing at the end of the year.

A report emerging from the strategic review of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) was issued in June. The vast majority of its 124 recommendations were approved by the government.

Although training in crime scene investigation and new forensic equipment for the JCF were introduced, failure to protect crime scenes and poor quality of forensic investigations continued to severely hamper effective police work.

  • Seventeen-year-old Carlton Grant was shot dead by police on 23 August in downtown Kingston. The two police officers involved stated that Carlton Grant and a friend had shot at them after they were stopped by police in the street and that officers returned fire. Eyewitnesses claimed Carlton Grant and his friend were unarmed and were shot as they attempted to surrender to police. In November, the Director of Public Prosecutions ruled that the two officers should be charged with murder.
  • Thirteen-year-old Jevaughn Robinson was fatally shot in the head by members of a police patrol on 22 September in Spanish Town, St Catherine. The police stated he was killed in a shoot-out and claimed they retrieved a gun from the crime scene. Local residents refuted this, alleging that when the police entered the community, men close to Jevaughn Robinson started to run for cover towards nearby bushes and he did the same. Witnesses stated that police officers chased him, accosted him and, without making any effort to restrain or detain him, shot him in the head. An investigation was ongoing at the end of the year.

Justice system

Some progress was made in implementing recommendations from a June 2007 report by the Justice System Reform Task Force, including appointment of additional court staff, but the majority remained to be implemented. At the end of the year, legislation to create a special coroner’s office to expedite investigations into new cases of fatal police shootings and address the backlog of cases was still in discussion as was a bill to establish a special prosecutor to investigate corruption by state officials. In September, Parliament passed bills to increase the number of judges in the Supreme Court and Appeal Court. Despite these moves, national human rights organizations pointed to continued chronic problems with the judiciary, including severe delays in cases being heard, unavailability of jurors, witness absenteeism and sporadic court scheduling.

Violence against women and girls

Sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread. According to police statistics, 655 women were raped between January and October. A Sexual Offences Bill, which would offer greater legal protection to women and children victims of sexual violence, had still not been presented to Parliament by the end of the year. The Bill was finalized in 2007, and was the culmination of attempts, which began in 1995, to reframe existing gender-discriminatory legislation.

Discrimination – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

There were continuing reports of mob violence against people, mostly men, perceived to be involved in same-sex relationships. The true extent of attacks on gay men was unknown as the subject is taboo and people do not report attacks for fear of exposure.

  • In August, a Molotov cocktail (petrol bomb) was thrown into a house in Clarendon, south central Jamaica, occupied by two men who were alleged to be gay. As the emergency services arrived, a small jeering crowd assembled outside the house. One of the men received burns covering 60 per cent of his body and was hospitalized for three weeks.

Death penalty

At least one new death sentence was handed down, but no executions were carried out. There were nine people on death row at the end of the year. At the end of the year the Jamaican Parliament voted to retain the death penalty.

In December, Jamaica voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Amnesty International visits

Amnesty International delegates visited Jamaica in March/April. 

Amnesty International reports

“Let them kill each other” – Public security in Jamaica’s inner-cities (1 April 2008)