Hundreds of people in inner-city communities were the victims of gang murders or police killings. Sexual violence against women and girls was widespread. There were reports of discrimination against lesbian and gay people. Two people were sentenced to death; there were no executions.
The public security situation remained critical. Gang violence in marginalized inner-city communities reportedly resulted in 1,198 deaths between January and September. The Minister of National Security and the Commissioner of Police resigned in April and November respectively following criticism from the Prime Minister over the failure to reduce the murder rate.
A new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms came before Parliament in April and was still under consideration at the end of the year. The Charter, which is intended to replace Chapter III of the Constitution, was criticized by national human rights organizations on the grounds that it was too limited in scope and that there had been a lack of public consultation.
The number of reported police killings rose to 253, compared with 224 in 2008. The high number of killings, combined with eyewitness testimonies and other evidence, indicated that many of the killings were unlawful.
- Anthony Nelson was shot dead by the police on 7 January 2009 on a construction site at Central Village, St Catherine. His companion, Ricardo Suckoo, was seriously injured. Police officers reported that the two men fired at them after being questioned for acting suspiciously. However, according to witnesses, the men were unarmed and the police shot at them after asking what they were doing on the site. At the end of the year, a ruling from the Director of Public Prosecutions on whether to pursue criminal proceedings against the police officers was still pending.
- Dane Daley was fatally shot by the police on 27 May in Portmore, St Catherine, as he was on his way to the shops with two cousins, Tyrell and Jordan Thompson. According to Tyrell Thompson, they were stopped and ordered not to move by four armed men, whom they could not identify because it was dark. They started to run away before realizing that the men were police officers. Tyrell Thompson was shot and injured. Dane Daley was shot in the head and abdomen and died. Residents in the area said that the police were patrolling the area following previous incidents of gang shootings. An investigation into the shootings was continuing at the end of the year.
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) began implementation of the recommendations of a strategic review of the force. According to national human rights organizations, although the number of police officers trained in crime scene investigation increased, the resources made available to JCF ballistic, forensic and pathology departments remained inadequate. The independence of these departments, which remained under the direction of the police force, was also questioned.
Parliament debated draft legislation to create an independent commission to investigate abuses by the security forces but had not passed the bill by the end of the year.
According to the Minister of Justice, by early November the implementation had begun of over 70 of the 200 recommendations to reform the justice system made by the Justice System Reform Task Force. A bill creating a special coroner’s office to expedite investigations into new cases of fatal police shootings was passed by Parliament but the office had not been established by the end of the year.
More than a year and a half after it was tabled in Parliament, a bill establishing a special prosecutor to investigate corruption by state officials had still not been adopted.
Violence against women and girls
A study on the relationship between adolescent pregnancy and sexual violence carried out by health care researchers showed that 49 per cent of the 750 girls aged between 15 and 17 surveyed had experienced sexual coercion or violence. The study highlighted the need to address gender-based violence at community level.
In July, the Sexual Offences Act, which reforms and incorporates various laws relating to rape, incest and other sexual offences, was passed by Parliament. Although women’s organizations welcomed the Act, they also expressed concerns about the restrictive definition of rape. The Act criminalizes rape within marriage, but only in certain circumstances.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
During a parliamentary debate, a member of Parliament questioned the right of gay men and lesbians to form organizations and demanded life imprisonment for homosexual acts. The Prime Minister, while distancing himself from these comments, made it clear that his government would not repeal the crime of buggery, which is currently punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Two death sentences were handed down in 2009; no executions were carried out. There were four people on death row at the end of the year. In July the Prime Minister declared that the government would honour Parliament’s decision in 2008 to retain the death penalty by resuming executions as soon as the appeal avenues available to death row prisoners were exhausted.
Amnesty International visit/report
- Amnesty International delegates visited Jamaica in February.
- Public security reforms and human rights in Jamaica