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Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Jamaica

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Jamaica, 2004, available at: [accessed 29 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis 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.


Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 2.6 million (1.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 2,830 (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 17½ (training only)
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 9 May 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ILO 138, ILO 182

The minimum age for voluntary recruitment was 18 years. Younger recruits could enter training at 17 years and six months with parental consent, but had to have reached the age of 18 before graduation. Under-18s were reportedly members of armed groups responsible for gang and community violence, some of it politically motivated.


Jamaican society continued to suffer a high level of violence. In 2003 at least 975 people were murdered, including 13 police officers. Members of the police force killed over 110 people in the same period. Although this was a significant decrease from previous years, many were suspected to be unlawful killings and most were not investigated. In May 2003 the Crime Management Unit, a police unit implicated in numerous such killings, was disbanded and in November 2003 it was announced that charges would be filed against six officers in connection with the killing of seven young men in Braeton in 2001.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

In its declaration made on ratifying the Optional Protocol in May 2002, Jamaica stated that all recruitment to its armed forces is voluntary and that the minimum age of voluntary recruitment is 18 years. Younger recruits may enlist for training at 17 years and six months with parental consent, but must have reached the age of 18 before graduating. To enlist, proof of age has to be provided and the recruitment officer has to be satisfied that the applicant is 18 or older.2 Initial basic training lasts for 18 weeks and is carried out at the Training Depot in Newcastle.3

Under the Defence Act, the armed forces comprise a regular force and a reserve force, and are responsible for the defence of the nation and other duties such as assisting the police in law enforcement and maintenance of order.4 A cadet organization, the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force (JCCF), is open to boys and girls of secondary school age and is based in schools throughout the country. Members receive basic military training designed to demonstrate the need for the defence forces, how they function, and to stimulate interest in a military career.5

Armed groups

Under-18s were reportedly members of armed groups responsible for gang and community violence, some of it politically motivated. The October 2002 general elections, won by the ruling People's National Party for the fourth successive time, were accompanied by political violence in which supporters of both main political parties reportedly attacked each other. At least 60 people were killed.6 Gangs involved in the violence were reportedly linked to political parties, or to people involved in the drugs trade seeking to support their preferred candidate.7

Children as young as 12 were reported to be increasingly involved in gang or community violence, much of it related to extortion rackets or the drugs trade. A few community-based projects offered alternatives to violence, one initiative working with young people from the age of eight in August Town, where conflict was primarily between communities divided along political lines. In Spanish Town, another program worked with the growing number of street children used by gang and neighbourhood bosses for criminal and political purposes.8

Other developments

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considered Jamaica's second periodic report in May 2003. It noted that difficult economic and social conditions and the high level of external debt placed limitations upon the state's financial resources, and that poverty and unemployment had a negative impact on the respect for the rights of children. It expressed deep concern at the generally violent environment in which children were living. Other areas of concern included juvenile justice and conditions of detention for juveniles, as well as ill-treatment of juveniles.9

1 Amnesty International Report 2004,

2 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

3 Jamaica Defence Force, (Careers, Soldier careers).

4 Jamaica Defence Force, op. cit.

5 Jamaica Defence Force, op. cit. (Affiliates, Jamaica Combined Cadet Force).

6 Amnesty International Report 2003.

7 Tony Thompson, "Jamaica's poll bloodbath", The Observer (UK), 13 October 2002, http://observer.

8 Michael Mogensen, "Background to violence in Kingston", 9 March 2004, "Building the peace in August Town", 12 March 2004, and "In the midst of gang violence, Jamaican NGO makes a difference", 25 March 2004, Children and Youth in Organized Armed Violence, br.

9 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Jamaica, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.210, 4 July 2003,

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