Annual Report: Jamaica 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Jamaica 2011

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Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Patrick Linton Allen
Head of government: Bruce Golding
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 2.7 million
Life expectancy: 72.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 28/28 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 85.9 per cent

Hundreds of people in inner-city communities were the victims of gang murders or police killings. At least 43 reports of extrajudicial executions were received during a two-month state of emergency. Children were detained in conditions that breached human rights standards. At least four people were sentenced to death; there were no executions.

Background

The number of people murdered, mainly in the context of gang violence in marginalized inner-city communities, remained high. A state of emergency was declared in May in Kingston and St Andrew. This followed an outbreak of gang violence as armed supporters of Christopher "Dudus" Coke protested against his extradition to the USA on drug-related charges. The state of emergency remained in force until 22 July.

On 23 July, six anti-crime bills entered into force. Some of their provisions are in breach of human rights principles and standards.

Jamaica's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November.

Police and security forces

The number of people reportedly killed by the police reached a record high. Evidence suggested that some of the killings may have been unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions.

Following a visit to Jamaica in February, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture reported that many people had been beaten in detention by police. He recommended, among other things, that Jamaica ratify the UN Convention against Torture.

At least 4,000 people were detained during the state of emergency and 76 people were killed, including three members of the security forces. The Office of the Public Defender received at least 43 complaints of extrajudicial executions.

  • Sheldon Davis, a physically disabled man, was killed in Tivoli Gardens on 30 May. According to Sheldon Davis' mother, around 30 law enforcement officers came to their house and started interrogating him. They accused him of being involved in gang violence, which he denied. He was taken into custody, and several days later his family found out that he had been killed. The security forces reported that he was killed after attempting to grab a soldier's gun. An investigation was ongoing at the end of the year.

The Office of the Public Defender initiated an independent investigation into complaints received about the conduct of the security forces during the state of emergency. At the end of the year, ballistic tests had still not started. Jamaican human rights NGOs expressed concern at the failure to preserve crime scenes and to ensure accountability for the use of firearms by members of the security forces.

In August, the Independent Commission of Investigations, which is tasked with investigating abuses by the security forces, formally began its operations. However, at the end of the year, it was still engaged in recruiting and training staff, and mainly supervised investigations carried out by the police Bureau of Special Investigation.

Justice system

Although during the UPR the government stated that reforms to the justice system were being implemented, considerable delays continued to be reported in the delivery of justice. By the end of the year, the Office of the Special Coroner, which is supposed to examine fatal shootings by police, had still not been established.

Children's rights

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture reported that children continued to be held together with adults in police detention and in some correctional centres. He also noted that children and adolescents in need of care and protection, children with learning difficulties, and those in conflict with the law were often held together.