Jamaica 2019
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Jamaica 2019

The number of killings by law enforcement officials remained high, despite improved investigations and prosecutions of such cases. LGBTI people continued to experience human rights violations.

Background

States of emergency were imposed in several parishes. Throughout the year, the NGO Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) received reports of arbitrary detention, physical abuse and inhumane detention conditions under the states of emergency.

Jamaica was vocal in the international community in calling for measures to address the climate crisis. In September it signed the Escazú Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, but had yet to ratify it by the end of the year.

Amid alarming reports of violence against children, including in institutions, JFJ, in partnership with the government of Jamaica, launched a Child Protection Programme to improve the identification and reporting of child abuse.

Police and security forces

Killings by the police, some of which could amount to extrajudicial executions, and other human rights violations by law enforcement officials remained a serious concern. While the number of killings by police had dropped in recent years, in 2019, law enforcement officials shot and killed 86 people and shot and injured 83 people, according the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), an independent police oversight body.

INDECOM continued to challenge impunity for such killings through its investigations and prosecutions. As of October 2019, 49 officers were awaiting trial for murder or manslaughter and as of April 2019, 21 convictions had been secured against law enforcement officials – three for murder and three for manslaughter – according to INDECOM.

In August, following a six-and-a-half-year investigation into the fatal shooting of Matthew Lee, INDECOM brought charges against six members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, an important step for truth, justice and reparation for the many families awaiting access to justice for the cases of their relatives.[1]

Nevertheless, INDECOM’s powers to arrest, charge or prosecute continued to be tested through the courts, an issue which could be clarified by Parliament.

In a positive development, in March, Jamaica's highest court of appeal – the Privy Council – ruled in favour of JFJ who challenged the decision of the Police Service Commission (PSC) to promote an officer who was allegedly implicated in dozens of unlawful killings. The court held that the PSC had a duty to conduct investigations into allegations of human rights violations in relation to police officers who are recommended for promotions, especially where there are allegations of police killings.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI)

Jamaica continued to criminalize same-sex relations and failed to pass comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. The NGO J-FLAG continued to receive reports of discrimination, exclusion, violent attacks, displacement and police abuse targeted against LGBTI people. Transgender people remained unable to legally change their gender markers and name.


[1] Jamaica: Six police officers charged over killing of Matthew Lee (News story, 16 August)