Amnesty International Report 2004 - Jamaica
|Publication Date||26 May 2004|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2004 - Jamaica , 26 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b5a1f84.html [accessed 23 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Covering events from January - December 2003
Reports of police brutality and excessive use of force continued. At least 113 people were killed by the police, many in circumstances suggesting that they were extrajudicially executed. Detainees continued to be held for extremely long periods without being brought to trial. Conditions of detention frequently amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. At least three people were sentenced to death; there were no executions.
The economic situation remained dire, with a large number of people living below the poverty line.
Jamaican society continued to suffer from an extremely high level of violence; at least 975 people were reported murdered, including 13 police officers.
At least 113 people were killed by the police, a significant drop on previous years. Many of these killings were suspected extrajudicial executions. There were continuing reports of ill-treatment, possibly amounting to torture, in police custody.
In February the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions visited Jamaica for discussions with the government and to investigate alleged unlawful killings. The authorities were not able to provide the Special Rapporteur with details of any police officer convicted of an unlawful killing between 1999 and January 2003. The Special Rapporteur concluded that the system for investigating potential extrajudicial executions by police officers appeared to be "wholly inadequate and marred by a number of institutional obstacles and by a lack of resources" and that extrajudicial executions appeared to have occurred.
- In January police officers assaulted and shot at members of a crowd at a dance hall event in Portmore. According to the event's organizers, the police officers had demanded money to allow the dance to continue but were unhappy with the amount offered. Video footage that showed police officers firing into and above the crowd supported allegations of police brutality.
- On 7 May, two women – Angela Richards and Lewena Thompson – and two men – Kirk Gordon and Matthew James – were shot dead by members of the police Crime Management Unit in disputed circumstances in Crawle. According to the police, the four were killed in an exchange of fire after officers approached a house. Local residents who said they witnessed the incident stated that the two men were killed immediately when the police opened fire on the house without provocation, and that the two women were subsequently killed inside the building. The eight-year-old daughter of one of the women was reportedly removed from the house by police officers before her mother was killed. Members of the local community reported being threatened by police officers following the killings. The government requested and received assistance with the investigation from the police forces of Canada, the United Kingdom and the USA. The police officers involved were reportedly removed from frontline duties.
- On 25 July, 10-year-old Renee Lyons was shot dead in Majesty Gardens, Kingston. The police officer said he was firing on an unarmed youth who fled after being suspected of smoking a marijuana cigarette. Local demonstrations followed the killing. No one had been charged in relation to the killing by the end of the year.
- In December, a coroner's court jury ruled that the police officers responsible for the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jason Smith in July 2002 should be held criminally liable and charged with murder. No decision on charging the officers had been made by the Director of Public Prosecutions by the end of the year.
There was a continuing failure to hold the perpetrators of human rights violations to account and to offer redress to victims. Investigations into alleged extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations were inadequate. In numerous instances, police allegedly failed to protect the scenes of crime after such killings and those investigating failed to arrive promptly or investigate thoroughly. Although police officers were occasionally charged with offences related to human rights violations, no officer was known to have been convicted of such offences.
However, in November the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that charges would be filed against six of the police officers involved in the killing of seven young men in Braeton in 2001. In March 2003, AI had released a report examining the killing of the seven and the subsequent investigation. The report concluded that the evidence overwhelmingly indicated that the seven had been extrajudicially executed. The government accused the report of being "damaging, offensive and a broadside against what Jamaica stands for" and said that AI had "consistently sought to impugn the government and the police in its reports." An AI delegation that included a firearms crime scene expert found potential new evidence at the scene of the killing, a summary of which was presented to the government.
In May, the authorities announced the disbandment of the Crime Management Unit, a police unit that had been implicated in numerous alleged extrajudicial executions, including the killings of the Braeton Seven and the four people in Crawle.
In May a judicial review of the Director of Public Prosecution's decision not to prosecute the police officers involved in the 1999 killing of Patrick Genius ruled that there was no basis to interfere with the decision. A coroner's court had earlier found that the police should be held criminally responsible for the killing. The family of Patrick Genius lodged an appeal against the judicial review's decision.
The government announced several measures that would strengthen the investigation into police killings, including undertakings to improve the autopsies on those killed by the police and to reduce the backlog for coroner's court inquires into police killings. To AI's knowledge such proposals had not been implemented by the end of the year.
In July AI issued a report calling for a fresh inquiry in line with international standards into the killing of 27 people during an operation headed by the Crime Management Unit in Tivoli Gardens in July 2001. The government alleged that the report would give "succour and comfort" to criminals and said that the failure of witnesses to come forward to testify at the inquiry suggested that they had no credible story to tell.
In December new policies were introduced by the police force to make senior officers more accountable for the actions of those under their command and to improve the investigation of fatal shootings. This followed the announcement of new rules on the use of deadly force in September.
Detention without trial
Many detainees continued to be held for long periods without trial. Among them were detainees held for up to 28 years who had been declared unfit to plead.
Three detainees who had been declared unfit to plead and held for many years without trial were released in October – Errol Campbell, detained for 24 years on a charge of shooting with intent; Roy Williams, detained for 11 years on a charge of wounding with intent; and Gladstone Ricketts, detained for 28 years on a charge of murder. The Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization that submitted appeals to the courts to free the three men, estimated that there were approximately 100 other similar cases that were effectively lost in the system. Following the release of the three men, the prison authorities announced a review of the cases of all prisoners who had been declared unfit to plead and had identified 70 such cases by the end of the year.
Torture and ill-treatment in detention
Conditions in prison and other places of detention were harsh and in many cases amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Severe overcrowding was commonplace. The Tower Street Correctional Centre and the St Catherine Correction Centre both reportedly housed at least twice the number of prisoners for which they were originally built. Many prisoners were forced to share small cells and to defecate and urinate in buckets in their cell.
Tuberculosis was present in at least one prison, Tamarind Prison, causing it to be closed to new prisoners for several months.
In September, two prison guards were dismissed after being found guilty of beating prisoners in the Horizon Remand Centre. To AI's knowledge no criminal charges were brought against the officers involved.
At least three people were sentenced to death, bringing to at least 40 the number of people on death row. No executions took place. There were numerous calls for the reintroduction of hanging from various sections of society.
- In June the Court of Appeal freed Dwight Denton, who had been sentenced to death in 2001 for murder. Records from his employer showed he was at work on the day of the crime, as he had always maintained, and could not have taken part in the killings. The court ordered retrials of his two co-defendants, who had also been sentenced to death.
- In September the Court of Appeal freed Randall Dixon who had been sentenced to death in 1998 for the murder of a police officer during a bank robbery. The court heard that the prosecution had withheld a videotape of the robbers escaping from the bank that showed that Randall Dixon was not among them. His co-defendant was also freed.
AI country visits
In March an AI delegation visited Jamaica and met the Attorney General, Minister of National Security and Minister of Foreign Affairs to discuss concerns about impunity for the police.
In May AI sent a pathologist to observe the autopsies of the four people killed in Crawle on 7 May.