The Jamaican authorities must bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations, including the killing of 74 people in Kingston during a state of emergency imposed one year ago in an operation to arrest a suspected gang leader, Amnesty International today said in a new report.
Despite some positive steps, the authorities have failed to prosecute anyone for the killings during the operation to arrest Christopher Coke, who was eventually deported to the USA to face drug and arms-trafficking charges.
“An independent commission of inquiry must be established in order to ensure that all human rights violations committed in Tivoli last year do not go unpunished like so many others in Jamaica,” said Chiara Liguori Amnesty International’s expert on Jamaica.
On 24 May 2010, Jamaican police and military initiated a joint operation in the West Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens, to arrest Christopher Coke and re-establish order in the community.
During the two day operation at least 74 people, including a member of the Jamaica Defence Force, were killed and at least 54 people, including 28 members of the security forces, injured.
In the two-month state of emergency that followed, more than 4,000 people, including children, were detained, most without charge. Two people reportedly taken into custody remain unaccounted for.
The investigations initiated by the authorities around the killings have not established facts and responsibilities yet. According to information gathered by Amnesty International’s legal experts, investigations have suffered shortcomings in the initial phase which might have compromised the results.
Shortcomings in the initial phase of the investigation include the lack of protection of crime scenes and the failure to remove from service the firearms used during the confrontations for ballistic testing.
In addition, the organization documented a general lack of resources for the investigations, particularly in the Legal Medicine Unit of the Ministry of National Security, where only two forensic pathologists work.
“The lack of effective investigations for human rights crimes is nothing new in Jamaica,” said Chiara Liguori. “The reality is that for far too long, inner-city communities have been trapped between drug gangs and a state that ignores them.”
Amnesty International has issued over 50 recommendations to the Jamaican authorities and is supporting local calls for a full commission of inquiry into the human rights violations committed during the state of emergency.
23 May – At 6.00 pm the Jamaican authorities declare a one-month state of emergency in the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew as they try to restore order and capture Christopher Coke, wanted in the USA for drug-trafficking and firearms charges.
23 May – During the day, several police stations are attacked by gunmen; two are burned down. Two police officers are killed in the community of Mountain View during the night. Reports circulate that heavily armed men are manning roadblocks into the Tivoli Gardens community and positioned on the top of buildings in the area.
24 May – Jamaican police and the military initiate a joint operation in the West Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens to arrest Christopher Coke and re-establish order in the community. During the first two days of the operation, at least 74 people, including a member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), were killed and at least 54 people, including 28 members of the security forces, were injured. Only six firearms were recovered during the operation.
27 May — Journalists are allowed to enter Tivoli Gardens under military escort in a guided tour.
22 June – Christopher Coke is arrested.
22 June – The Jamaican Parliament votes to extend the state of emergency for a further month and to include the parish of St Catherine. The Prime Minister informs the Parliament that 87 firearms had been recovered in West Kingston.
25 June – Christopher Coke is extradited to the United States.
22 July — The state of emergency ends after a government request for a further one-month extension was rejected by Parliament.
Case study of a killing: ‘Young man, aren’t you dead yet?’ (Case study, 23 May 2010)
Jamaica: Amnesty International welcomes commitment to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by security forces (Public Statement, 17 March 2011)
Jamaica violence investigation must be thorough (News story, 27 May 2010)