Jamaica Must Tackle Shocking Wave of Police Killings, says Amnesty International

Press Release
March 7, 2012

Jamaica Must Tackle Shocking Wave of Police Killings, says Amnesty International

Human Rights Organization Decries the Killing of 21 Civilians in Six Days

Contact: Gwen Fitzgerald, gfitzgerald@aiusa.org, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) -- The killing of 21 people by Jamaican police in just six days must be subject to a thorough inquiry, Amnesty International said as it called on the authorities to mount an effective investigation into past and present police operations.

Six of the killings took place during a single police operation in Denham Town, West Kingston, on March 5. A 13-year-old girl died after reportedly being caught in crossfire between police and criminal suspects. According to press reports, 45 people have been killed by police in Jamaica so far in 2012.

"The recent wave of police killings in Jamaica is shocking, but unfortunately not unprecedented,” said Chiara Liguori, Caribbean researcher at Amnesty International. "The problem is that police continue to enter marginalized inner-city communities as if everyone there were a criminal suspect."

The last time such levels of police violence were recorded was during the state of emergency in West Kingston in May 2010, where 76 people were killed over two days during an operation by security forces. Almost two years on, no one has been held responsible for those killings, and an investigation carried out by the public defender is yet to be concluded.

"If human rights abuses such as police killings go unpunished, it will only open the door for more abuses to take place," said Liguori.

Jamaica also has a poor record in terms of holding those responsible to account and providing justice and reparations to victims' families. Out of more than 2,220 fatal shootings by police recorded between 2000 and 2010, only two officers have been convicted.

Amnesty International acknowledges that the creation of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) in August 2010 has been a crucial step toward enhancing investigations of abuses by the security forces. However, the organization believes authorities in Jamaica must ensure INDECOM is provided with sufficient resources and collaboration from other state agencies to conduct effective investigations that actually lead to justice for the victims.

Amnesty International's research on police killings in Jamaica found that effective investigations are hampered by a lack of independence in the ballistic and forensic services and by limited resources which often contribute to the lack of justice.

"Faced with another wave of killings by the security forces in West Kingston, the Jamaican authorities must take decisive steps to fight impunity," said Liguori. "They should make available all the needed resources to ensure a prompt, independent and effective investigation into the recent killings, as well as appoint an independent commission of inquiry to ensure that all human rights violations committed under the state of emergency do not go unpunished.”

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.