Yet Another Report on Extrajudicial Killings Backs Up Jamaican Human Rights Defenders’ Calls for Police Reform

This report prepared by Emma Lewis for Global Voices

Jamaica (GV) – It’s really nothing new. Extrajudicial killings by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force have been a persistent human rights concern over decades, highlighted in numerous local and international reports, including the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report.

Now, add Amnesty International to that list. At a press conference in Kingston on November 23, 2016, Amnesty International unveiled its latest report on Jamaica: “Waiting in Vain: Unlawful Police Killings and Relatives’ Long Struggle for Justice”. Amnesty’s Americas Director, Erika Guevara-Rosas, noted in a press release:

If authorities in Jamaica are serious about tackling the country’s shocking levels of police killings and violence they must urgently promote a deep police and justice reform to address not only the number of police murders but the root causes of the problem.

The report goes beyond the basic, egregious injustice of the deprivation of citizens’ right to life by agents of the state; it also explores what Rodje Malcolm, advocacy manager with the human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), called a “web of human rights abuses” associated with the killings themselves that affect the victims’ families, friends and the wider community. These include various forms of harassment, threats and intimidation — at home, at funerals and wakes, at hospitals and even in court.

Malcolm was speaking at a small, informal evening event with family members and the human rights community following Amnesty International’s press conference. The gathering also put on an art exhibition and film screenings to highlight the problem.

Malcolm pointed to a “culture of fear” that pervades impoverished neighborhoods and “does not even have a perpetrator”. The culture of “informer fi dead”, which dancehall deejay Buju Banton sang about back in 1991, means that citizens refuse to report crimes or come forward as witnesses, for fear of either criminal gangs or the police — or both. This atmosphere persists, paralyzing communities and making the quest for justice even harder.

One example is the case of Matthew Lee, who was shot dead by the police along with two other young men in the uptown Kingston area of Arcadia in January 2013. No witnesses have come forward and the case has therefore been stalled.

Shackelia Jackson, the courageous and outspoken sister of cookshop operator Nakeia Jackson, who was shot dead by police in January 2014, said Jamaica’s justice system has caused great suffering to families like hers, noting that periods of harassment by the police always coincided with court dates. Her brother’s case was dismissed in July of this year; since then, the harassment has stopped. Jackson asked at the meeting, “Who is authorizing all this?” and activist Glenroy Murray shared her forthright statements:

His colleague, Jaevion Nelson, mused on Twitter:

One Jamaican expressed support for the victim’s family:

While blogger Susan Goffe observed:

Even members of the Jamaican diaspora expressed anxiety over the issue:

However, some took a harder line, suggesting that victims of police killings got what they deserved:

Nevertheless, there is hope. The establishment of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), set up in 2010 to look into cases of police abuse, has been credited for greatly reducing the number of police killings, which fell from 258 in 2013 to 129 in 2014 — and dropped even further, to 98 in 2015 — a 16-year low.

However, Jamaica’s murder rate has been inching up this year. Broadcast journalist Abka Fitz-Henley tweeted:

JFC stands for Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Security and human rights — and the country’s snail’s pace justice system — are never far from the agenda in Jamaica. The release of the Amnesty report highlights the need for the Jamaican government to begin to seriously tackle the issue of police reform — an issue that was raised in the Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the 2010 incursion by security forces in Tivoli Gardens.

The need for “broad institutional reform” in the police force was also included in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) new Stand-by Arrangement for Jamaica earlier this month. As a step in this direction, Prime Minister Andrew Holness committed himself to a complete overhaul of colonial-era legislation related to the Jamaica Constabulary Force by October 2017.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who met with the Amnesty and Jamaicans for Justice representatives this week, appears to be fully aware of the “justice delayed is justice denied” aspect of the problem, which allows more human rights abuses to take place as cases drag through the courts. This week, the minister declared that documents for court cases must be ready within three months. Whether this is achievable remains to be seen.

On a positive note, there was welcome support for Jamaican families from women elsewhere in the hemisphere. Amnesty’s Caribbean campaigner Robin Guittard shared:

While human rights, crime and violence remain thorny issues, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for Jamaica, once good intentions are translated into action.


Pennsylvania State Constable Duty Hat picture

Pennsylvania State Constable Duty Hat

$16.25



Michigan State Police Fatigue Cap, 30% Wool, NEW to Spec. picture

Michigan State Police Fatigue Cap, 30% Wool, NEW to Spec.

$17.00



Police Ball Cap Hat Law Enforcement 3D Embroidered Adjustable Hats Caps Black  picture

Police Ball Cap Hat Law Enforcement 3D Embroidered Adjustable Hats Caps Black

$17.05



U.S MILITARY IN MEMORIAM HAT PIN BADGE IN MEMORY POLICE SERVICE HAT PIN LAPEL  picture

U.S MILITARY IN MEMORIAM HAT PIN BADGE IN MEMORY POLICE SERVICE HAT PIN LAPEL

$9.99



K9 Police Dog Ball Cap Hat K-9 Law Enforcement Adjustable Hats Caps Black New picture

K9 Police Dog Ball Cap Hat K-9 Law Enforcement Adjustable Hats Caps Black New

$17.81



American Flag Blue Line Hat Chicago Police Department  picture

American Flag Blue Line Hat Chicago Police Department

$19.99



POLICE THIN BLUE LINE HAT LAPEL PIN BADGE POLICE SERVICE HAT OR LAPEL PIN  picture

POLICE THIN BLUE LINE HAT LAPEL PIN BADGE POLICE SERVICE HAT OR LAPEL PIN

$9.99



NARCOTICS OFFICER Cap Hat Law Drug Enforcement 3DEmbroidered Black Caps Hats New picture

NARCOTICS OFFICER Cap Hat Law Drug Enforcement 3DEmbroidered Black Caps Hats New

$16.16



Punisher Blue Line Cuffed Knit Hat-11075 picture

Punisher Blue Line Cuffed Knit Hat-11075

$14.99



POLICE BASEBALL CAP HAT NEW MEXICO STATE POLICE  NEW UNUSED picture

POLICE BASEBALL CAP HAT NEW MEXICO STATE POLICE NEW UNUSED

$31.99



Brian Sumner

is an Activist, Journalist and Photographer from the Fresno area who has taken a special interest in the "Police State". He facilitates a watchdog group called the Fresno Liberty Movement, advocates filming the police and alternatives to state controlled protection services. He also served in the U.S Army from Oct. 08' thru Mar. 12' with a tour in Iraq in 2010. Most recently he participated in the CopBlock Network's #MACtour Check out more of my writing at: The Fresno People's Media & BrianDavidSumner.com Follow me on Social media: Facebook YouTube