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Jamaica: Update to JAM22562.E of 3 January 1996 and JAM22563.E of 4 January 1996 on connections between gangs (posses), police and politicians and on protection from gangs (1996-1999)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 June 1999
Citation / Document Symbol JAM32113.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Jamaica: Update to JAM22562.E of 3 January 1996 and JAM22563.E of 4 January 1996 on connections between gangs (posses), police and politicians and on protection from gangs (1996-1999), 1 June 1999, JAM32113.E, available at: [accessed 4 May 2016]
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.


Crime levels in Jamaica

        In October 1996, while announcing a new anti-crime plan in the Jamaican Parliament, National Security Minister K.D. Knight reportedly stated that the crime problem in Jamaica was the "worst" it had ever been (CVMTV 30 Oct. 1996). In January 1997 it was reported that in 1996 a record 918 murders were committed in Jamaica, "an all-time high" (IPS 6 Jan. 1997). In November 1998, however, the Jamaica Observer reported that, according to the police, the crime rate for major crimes had fallen 19 percent in the year since November 1997 (9 Nov. 1998).

According to a spokeswoman for the Jamaican police, quoted by the BBC, a police crackdown on criminal gangs provoked a counter "campaign of intimidation" in which 10 police officers were shot during a ten day period in February 1999 (16 Feb. 1999).

Political violence

        Crime and violence linked to political motives "resurged in 1996" according to Country Reports 1996, leading to at least ten deaths (1997, Section 1). According to Country Reports 1997:

Political violence lessened considerably from 1996. However, the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) accused the security forces of targeting the opposition leader's West Kingston constituency for special attention, culminating in a May 6-7 confrontation with residents of Tivoli Gardens. In this confrontation, the police shot and killed four persons (three women and one child) and injured nine others by gunfire. All the victims were unarmed civilians. No member of the security forces was injured, and no arrests were made. Despite the apparent use of excessive force, the Government refused calls to convene a commission of inquiry and took no action against any member of the security forces (1998, Section 1).

These events notwithstanding, the December 1997 Jamaican elections were described as more peaceful than previous campaigns (BBC 17 Dec. 1997; ibid. 19 Dec. 1997b; Country Reports 1997 30 Jan. 1998). However, some violent incidents of violence did lead to a number of injuries and one death (BBC 3 Dec. 1997; ibid. 19 Dec. 1997a).

In September 1998 several days of rioting followed the arrest of a community leader accused by police of involvement in criminal gangs (BBC 24 Sept. 1998; ibid. 26 Sept. 1998; CANA 25 Sept. 1998).

Police shootings

        Amnesty International has expressed concern over the number of persons killed by Jamaican security forces, occasionally in circumstances in which political consequences are alleged:

There were reports of fatal shootings by law enforcement officials in disputed circumstances. In April Rohan Fraser, who was reportedly wanted by the police, was shot and killed by police in Tivoli Gardens, a community in West Kingston inhabited predominantly by members and supporters of the Jamaican Labour Party, one of the opposition parties. Initial police reports allegedly indicated that he was shot after he had aimed a gun at police, who were searching a house. Eye-witnesses, however, reported that he had his hands in the air when he was hit by 18 bullets fired by police. Three officers were later charged in connection with the killing (1998).

Amnesty International's Annual Report 1999 contains further references to police shootings including the Rohan Fraser incident (1999). According to Country Reports 1998, addressing the same topic:

The security forces frequently employed lethal force in apprehending criminal suspects, usually in the guise of shoot-outs. This resulted in the killing by police of 145 people during the year. While allegations of "police murder" were frequent, the validity of some of the allegations was suspect. This problem is the result of unresolved, long-standing antipathy between the security forces and certain communities, especially among the urban poor (1999, Section 1).

According to two articles in the Jamaica Observer, the responsibility for investigating police shootings has been held exclusively by the police Office of Professional Responsibility (25 May 1999; 14 June 1999). However, those functions will be transferred to a new unit within the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as of July 1999 (ibid.).

Protection from gangs

        Specific information concerning protection from gang or posse violence in Jamaica, additional to the general information provided above regarding crime levels, is scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to CVMTV, the anti-crime plan announced by National Security Minister K.D. Knight in October 1996 included a plan to enhance the effectiveness of the witness protection programme by placing it under the direct control of the Ministry for National Security and Justice (30 Oct. 1996). In December 1998 it was announced that the Witness Protection Programme was to receive an additional 29 posts as part of a wider anti-crime agenda (Jamaica Observer 17 Dec. 1998).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Response.


Amnesty International (AI). Annual Report 1999. [Internet] [Accessed 16 June 1999]

_____. 1998. Annual Report 1998. [Internet] [Accessed 15 June 1999]

BBC (Online Network). 16 February 1999. "Jamaica Cop Killings Continue." [Internet] [Accessed 15 June 1999]

_____. 26 September 1998. "Jamaica Steps Up Security." [Internet] [Accesssed 15 June 1999]

_____. 24 September 1998. "Police on Streets of Jamaican Capital After Day of Rioting." [Internet] [Accesssed 15 June 1999]

_____. 19 December 1997a. "One Dead in Jamaica Election Violence." [Internet] [Accesssed 15 June 1999]

_____. 19 December 1997b. "Jamaica's Ruling Party Wins a Landslide." [Internet] [Accesssed 15 June 1999]

_____. 17 December 1997. "Jimmy Carter Issues Appeal to Jamaicans." [Internet] [Accesssed 15 June 1999]

_____. 3 December 1997. "Electoral Violence in Jamaica." [Internet] [Accesssed 15 June 1999]

CANA [Bridgetown, in English]. 25 September 1998. "One Soldier Shot Dead as Clashes Continue in Kingston." (BBC Summary 28 Sept. 1998/NEXIS)

CVMTV [Jamaica]. 30 October 1996. "CVM Television Newscasts." [Internet] [Accessed 15 June 1999]

Inter Press Service (IPS). 6 January 1997. Wesley Gibbings. "Caribbean Politics: Change on the Horizon." (NEXIS)

Jamaica Observer (Internet edition). 14 June 1999. T.K. Whyte. "Clunie Heads New Probe Unit." [Internet] [Accessed 15 June 1999]

_____. 25 May 1999. Ken Chaplin. "Police, OPR and Justice." [Internet] [Accessed 15 June 1999]

_____. 17 December 1998. "More Policemen, Staff for Witness Protection Programme." [Internet] [Accessed 15 June 1999]

_____. 9 November 1998. "Police Say Crimes Down 19%" [Internet] [Accessed 15 June 1999]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998. 1999. United States, Department of State (Electronic version).

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. 1998. United States, Department of State (Electronic version).

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996. 1997. United States, Department of State (Electronic version).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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