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Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Jamaica

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 24 May 2012
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Jamaica, 24 May 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fbe393046.html [accessed 29 November 2014]
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.

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Patrick Linton Allen
Head of government: Andrew Holness (replaced Bruce Golding in October)
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 2.8 million
Life expectancy: 73.1 years
Under-5 mortality: 30.9 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 86.4 per cent

Hundreds of people in inner-city communities were the victims of gang murders or police killings. Nobody was held accountable for alleged human rights violations under the 2010 state of emergency. Attacks and harassment of lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people were reported. No death sentences were passed and there were no executions.

Background

High levels of armed gang violence, mainly in marginalized inner-city communities, remained a concern. However, the number of killings recorded fell by 15 per cent compared with 2010.

An independent commission of inquiry appointed to investigate the handling of the US extradition request for suspect drug-dealer Christopher Coke reported in June. It found that Prime Minister Golding's involvement in the decision to extradite had been "inappropriate". In September, Prime Minister Golding announced he was stepping down as Prime Minister and as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party.

In April, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms was adopted, replacing Chapter III of the Constitution.

In July, the Supreme Court ruled that the 2010 Bail (Interim Provisions for Specified Offences) Act was unconstitutional. Another temporary act, granting extra powers of detention and arrest to the police, was extended in July for another year.

In November, the UN Human Rights Committee considered Jamaica's third periodic report and made several recommendations on issues including investigations of allegations of extrajudicial executions; protection of lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people; and combating gender-based violence.

The People's National Party, led by former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, won the general elections which were held on 29 December.

Police and security forces

The number of people killed by the police between January and June fell by 32 per cent compared to the same period in 2010. However, several people were killed in circumstances suggesting that they may have been extrajudicially executed.

Nobody was held accountable for alleged unlawful killings and enforced disappearances carried out under the 2010 state of emergency. The Public Defender, whose office conducted an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations during the state of emergency, had not submitted his report to Parliament by the end of the year. A commitment to appoint an independent commission of inquiry to establish the truth about what happened was not forthcoming from the government, despite calls for such an inquiry from the Public Defender and Jamaican human rights organizations.

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), established in August 2010 to investigate abuses by the security forces, received resources to recruit and train additional investigators. However, debate continued over whether INDECOM has the power to charge police officers, highlighting the need to clarify and strengthen its powers in law.

The implementation of police reform continued. In April, the police stated that, of the 124 recommendations for reform proposed by a panel of independent experts in June 2008, 53 had been implemented and 65 were in advanced stages of delivery.

Justice system

In October, the Minister of Justice stated that a significant number of recommendations for the reform of the justice system had been implemented. However, he also acknowledged that significant delays in the delivery of justice persisted.

A Special Coroner charged with examining cases of fatal shootings by the police was appointed in February. However, because of the very limited resources assigned to his office, he lacked the capacity to deal effectively both with the backlog of cases and with the high number of new cases.

Children's rights

Following criticism over the holding of children together with adults in police lockups, the government opened the Metcalfe Street Juvenile Remand Center for boys in July and ordered the transfer of all detained boys to the Center. However, according to local human rights organizations, as of 3 September, 28 children remained in police lockups. Girls continued to be held together with adults.

Violence against women and girls

Police statistics revealed a decrease in complaints of sexual crime against women and girls. However, in May, the police stated that sexual attacks against children aged between 11 and 15 had increased compared with the same period in 2010.

A National Policy for Gender Equality was adopted in March.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

LGBT organizations reported scores of cases of attacks, harassment and threats against lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people, which in many cases were not fully and promptly investigated.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms failed to include the right to non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

A petition was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of two gay men to challenge the articles of the Offences Against the Person Act (commonly known as the "buggery" law). A UN Human Rights Committee recommendation called on the state to amend the law and to provide protection for lesbians, gay men and bisexual and transgender people, and for human rights defenders working on their behalf.

Death penalty

No death sentences were handed down. There were seven people on death row at the end of the year.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms included a provision intended to reverse the effects of a landmark 1993 ruling by the UK-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Jamaica's highest court of appeal. This had found that execution after five years on death row would constitute inhuman and degrading punishment.

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