Jamaica 2017/2018

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Jamaica 2017/2018

Unlawful killings – some of which may amount to extrajudicial executions – continued to be carried out by the police with impunity. A review of national legislation related to sexual offences, domestic violence, child care and child protection was underway. NGOs raised concerns over the right to privacy after proposals to introduce national identity cards. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people continued to face discrimination in law and in practice. Gay and bisexual prisoners continued to be at heightened risk for HIV.

Background

Despite committing to the establishment of a national human rights institution, Jamaica had not established the mechanism by the end of the year.

Jamaica continued to have one of the highest homicide rates in the Americas. Between January and June, homicides increased by 19% compared with the same period in 2016, according to police data.

Police and security forces

Between January and March, the police oversight mechanism, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) received 73 new complaints of assault and documented 42 killings by law enforcement officials. During the year, 168 people were killed by law enforcement officials, compared with 111 people in 2016.

Female relatives of those allegedly killed by the police continued to battle an underfunded, sluggish court system in their fight for justice, truth and reparation.1

More than a year after a Commission of Enquiry published its findings into the events that took place in Western Kingston during the 2010 state of emergency that left at least 69 people dead, the government had still not officially responded on how it planned to implement the recommendations, or made a public apology. In June, the Jamaica Constabulary Force completed an internal administrative review into the conduct of officers named in the Commissioners’ report. However, it found no misconduct or responsibility for human rights violations during the state of emergency.

In June, legislation was passed to create “zones of special operations” as part of a crime prevention plan.

INDECOM hosted a Caribbean Use of Force Conference to develop a region-wide Use of Force Policy consistent with best practice in human rights. Law enforcement officials from across the region participated in the forum, along with experts in policing and human rights.

Violence against women and girls

In March, women’s movements and survivors of gender-based and sexual violence took to the streets in the capital, Kingston, to protest against impunity for sexual violence.

Jamaican NGOs made a series of recommendations to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament tasked with reviewing national legislation related to sexual offences, domestic violence, child care and child protection. These included, among other things, repealing marital rape exceptions under the Sexual Offences Act to protect women against rape, irrespective of their marital status.

Right to privacy

The NGO Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) raised concerns that the National Identification and Registration Authority Act could undermine the right to privacy and that Article 41 specifically could limit access to public goods and services.

Children’s rights

JFJ made a series of recommendations to the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee to strengthen the Child Care and Protection Act. Among other things, JFJ recommended expanding the list of authorities to which members of the public can make a legally mandated report of child abuse, to make reporting easier.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

There remained no legal protection against discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result, LGBT people continued to face harassment and violence.

Consensual sex between men remained criminalized, and there was limited protection against intimate-partner violence for people in same-sex relationships. NGOs recommended that laws be amended to ensure that rape is treated as a gender-neutral offence.

As transgender people continued to be unable to change their legal name and gender, LGBTI organizations were concerned that the proposed national identification system could undermine the privacy of transgender people and expose them to stigma and discrimination, including from potential employers.

Jamaica’s third annual Pride event took place in August and continued to increase visibility for the LGBTI community and create opportunities for engagement with wider society.

Right to health

In June, the NGO Stand up for Jamaica released Barriers Behind Bars, a report which analysed the high risk of sexual violence, human rights violations, and consequently HIV, faced by gay and bisexual men in Kingston’s General Penitentiary, in which gay and bisexual men are segregated from the general prison population. The report aimed to generate discussion about best practices for reducing HIV in prisons.

International justice

Jamaica again failed to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC, which it signed in September 2000, nor had it adhered to the UN Convention against Torture or the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

  1. Jamaica: A thank you from Shackelia Jackson (News story, 15 December 2017)

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