Head of state Queen Elizabeth II,
Head of government Portia Simpson Miller
High levels of gang-related murders and killings by police persisted in inner-city communities. There was no significant progress in the investigation into alleged human rights violations during the 2010 state of emergency. Attacks and harassment of LGBTI people were reported to be increasing. No death sentences were passed and there were no executions.
A new government took office in January. In her inaugural speech, the Prime Minister pledged to initiate the process for Jamaica to become a Republic.
In July, the government tabled three bills in the House of Representatives aimed at replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica's final court of appeal. However, the debate in parliament stalled after the Opposition argued that such a change required a referendum.
High levels of gang violence, mainly in marginalized inner-city communities, remained a concern; 1,087 killings were reported during the year. Several incidents of mob attacks were reported. In April, the first part of a new National Security Policy was published.
Police and security forces
The number of people killed by police fell in 2012 as compared with 2011, but remained worryingly high. Several people were killed in controversial circumstances.
Following public outrage at the killings of 21 people by police in just six days at the beginning of March, the Minister of National Security announced that a review of the policy on police use of force would be undertaken and that the government would hold “the Commissioner of Police and the High Command accountable for a reduction in the level of Police fatal shootings”. However, by the end of the year no information had been made available about how this would be implemented.
In July, three soldiers were charged with the murder of Keith Clarke in his home during the first week of the 2010 state of emergency. In spite of repeated promises, the Public Defender failed to submit a report to Parliament with the findings of his investigation into allegations of human rights violations, including unlawful killings, during the state of emergency. The government stated that the decision on whether to appoint an independent commission of inquiry about what happened would depend on the results of the Public Defender's investigation.
In its report to Parliament in June, the Independent Commission of Investigations into abuses by the security forces (INDECOM) identified collusion among members of the security forces, wearing masks and balaclavas during operations, and delays in obtaining forensic evidence as major challenges in the investigations. Following several judicial challenges brought by the police against INDECOM, a review of the legislation was initiated with the aim of clarifying INDECOM's powers and mandate.
In October, the Minister of National Security announced that the government intended to dismantle the committee overseeing the implementation of police reform. Civil society organizations criticized this decision.
Significant delays in the delivery of justice continued to be reported. Problems highlighted included the authorities' failure to deal with witness absenteeism and the unavailability of citizens for jury service. Parliament continued debating the Committal Proceedings Bill, which seeks to reduce delays by abolishing preliminary enquiries.
According to local human rights organizations, boys continued to be detained in police lockups, often with adults. No plan was made to open a separate remand centre for girls. In September, the Youth Minister said that a submission to Cabinet would be prepared within a month with recommendations for child offenders remanded by the court or awaiting court appearance to be held in separate facilities from those housing adults. No information that this had been done was available at the end of the year.
Violence against women and girls
Sexual violence against women and girls remained a concern. On 27 September, following a meeting with several government and civil society representatives, the Office of the Prime Minister promised a plan of action to address violence against women.
In July, the CEDAW Committee recommended, among other things, strengthening the capacity of the Bureau of Women's Affairs, collecting and compiling comprehensive data on violence against women, and strengthening victim assistance and support programmes.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
LGBTI organizations reported an increase in attacks, harassment and threats. Many such attacks were not fully and promptly investigated.
During the electoral campaign in December 2011, Portia Simpson Miller stated that no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. However, once elected, the government took no steps to remove discriminatory laws.
A second petition was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights challenging articles in the Offences Against the Person Act (commonly known as the “buggery” law) on the grounds that they are unconstitutional and promote homophobia.
No death sentences were handed down. There were seven people on death row at the end of the year.
Amnesty International visits/reports
- Jamaica: One more year without justice (AMR 38/002/2012)
- Jamaica must tackle shocking wave of police killings (PRE01/123/2012)