U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Jamaica
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Jamaica, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4910.html [accessed 18 December 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
JAMAICAJamaica is a constitutional parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Two political parties have alternated in power since the first elections under universal adult suffrage in 1944; a third major party was established in late 1995. Prime Minister Patterson's People's National Party (PNP) won 50 of the 60 seats in Parliament in national elections on December 18. The general election campaign was significantly less violent than previous electoral campaigns. However, there continued to be intimidation of voters and party agents and restrictions on the free movement of voters. The judiciary is independent but lacks adequate resources. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has primary responsibility for internal security, assisted by the Island Special Constabulary Force. The Jamaica Defence Force (army, air wing, and coast guard) is charged with supporting the JCF in maintaining law and order, although it has no powers of arrest. While civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces, some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. The economy is based on primary products (bauxite and alumina, sugar, bananas), services (tourism, finance), and light manufacturing (garment assembly). The Government promoted private investment to stimulate economic growth and modernization, pursuing in the process a sometimes painful program of structural adjustment. Annual per capita income is $2,170, but this figure is misleading as there is a large and widening gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens; however, problems remained in certain areas. Although members of the security forces committed extrajudicial killings and beatings and carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, the Government moved effectively to punish some of those involved. Prison and jail conditions remained poor, with overcrowding, brutality against detainees, dismal sanitary conditions, and inadequate diet the norm. The judicial system was overburdened and lengthy delays in trials were common. Economic discrimination and violence against women remained problems, as did mob violence against those suspected of breaking the law.