Covering events from January - December 2002
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Howard Felix Cooke
Head of government: Percival James Patterson
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: signed
Reports of police brutality and excessive use of force continued. At least 133 people were killed by the police, many in disputed circumstances suggesting extrajudicial executions. Detention without charge or trial was reported, as was ill-treatment in detention. Conditions of detention frequently amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. At least five people were sentenced to death; there were no executions. In January the government refused to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality.
In elections on 16 October the People's National Party was returned to power. The elections were accompanied by an increase in politically motivated violence, with at least 60 people killed in the days leading to the election. Supporters of both the main political parties reportedly attacked each other's events. In July a political Ombudsman was appointed in line with a recommendation of the National Committee on Crime and Violence as a means of reducing political tensions.
In October the Minister of National Security announced that soldiers from the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) would be deployed in inner-city areas in an attempt to deal with "paramilitary terrorist groups".
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 violent crime; at least 1,045 people were reported murdered, including 16 police officers.
Brutality by the security forces
At least 133 people were killed by the police during the year. Many of the killings appeared to be extrajudicial executions. There were continuing reports of unlawful arrests and detention, and increasing reports of ill-treatment, possibly amounting to torture, in police custody.
- On 6 March Glenroy Stewart, aged 22, Jovan Campbell, 20, Gregory Sharpe, 19, and Douglas Rhoden, 17, were shot dead by police in disputed circumstances in Worthy Park. According to the police, the four men were killed in an exchange of fire after a car chase. Witnesses said police had handcuffed the four men at a shop, then had beaten them and taken them away in a police vehicle. Police allegedly threatened members of the community to remain silent following protests against the killings.
- In July, 15-year-old Jason Smith was shot dead by police. According to the police, he was killed in an exchange of fire after he produced a gun when challenged while riding a bicycle. According to witnesses, Jason Smith tried to flee from a group of police officers because he had no lights on his bicycle, but was caught. An eyewitness said that Jason Smith fell to the ground and pleaded for his life. One officer kicked him and then another fatally shot him. According to the autopsy, Jason Smith's body bore signs of being beaten
There was a continuing failure to hold 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 such killings and those investigating failed to arrive promptly, thereby allowing important evidence to be tampered with or destroyed. Although police officers were occasionally charged with offences related to human rights violations, no police or army officer was known to have been convicted of such charges.
- In January the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) refused to charge any of the police officers involved in the 1999 killing of Patrick Genius despite the finding of a coroner's court that the police should be held criminally responsible. The DPP argued that police statements that they had fired in self-defence could not be disproved, ignoring all the evidence to the contrary. In November relatives of Patrick Genius successfully appealed to the Supreme Court for judicial review of the DPP's decision. The review had not taken place by the end of the year.
- In October a coroner's inquest into the killing on 14 March 2001 of seven young men (known as the Braeton Seven) by the Crime Management Unit, a specialist police unit, found that no one was criminally responsible for the deaths. Witnesses said the young men were beaten before being summarily executed one at a time in a house in Braeton. A pathologist who observed the autopsies said it was "highly unlikely" that the men had been killed in crossfire as suggested by the police. AI was critical of many of the procedures used in the coroner's court inquiry, including the failure of the magistrate to oblige four of the police officers involved to testify.
- The trial of the police officer accused of the March 2000 murder of 13-year-old Janice Allen had yet to take place, but was scheduled for the beginning of 2003. There were continuing reports that members of Janice Allen's family were threatened by police officers seeking to intimidate them in connection with the proceedings. Important police records connected to the case went missing.
In June the report of the West Kingston Commission of Inquiry was published. The Commission was unable to establish the identities of the 27 people who died during disturbances in West Kingston between 7 and 10 July 2001, or those who killed them. Despite this, the report fully exonerated the actions of the security forces, although it recommended that officers be trained in the use of non-lethal weapons. The report contained serious legal and factual flaws, and appeared in many instances to accept the evidence of the state despite contradictions between witnesses. In June the Prime Minister stated that the government accepted in principle the Commission's recommendations. These included replacing existing internal disciplinary mechanisms for police officers with a Civilian Review Board, imposing stiffer penalties for refusal to testify before a commission of inquiry, and subjecting police officers to the Corruption Prevention Act. In August the Public Defender stated that he was discussing with the government the possibility of compensation for those who died. No decision was reached by the end of the year.
Torture and ill-treatment in detention
Conditions in prisons and other places of detention were harsh and in many cases amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Serious diseases and severe overcrowding were common. In Spanish Town police lock-up 131 prisoners were held in cells originally designed for 46. There were many reports of male rape, particularly of inmates suffering from mental illness.
- In May over 600 of the 800 prison warders who were suspended for staging an illegal strike in 2000 started a phased return to work. Following their return there were reports of physical abuse of inmates by warders at St. Catherine's District Prison and Tower Street Correctional Centre, resulting in injuries.
At least five people were sentenced to death, bringing to at least 50 the number of people on death row. No executions took place. In January the leader of the opposition called for the death penalty to be introduced for drug trafficking and "terrorism". In February the Minister of National Security stated that those guilty of importing large quantities of firearms should be executed. In June the Police Federation called for the resumption of executions, especially for those guilty of the murder of police officers. In September the Prime Minister announced that, should his party be returned to office, it would amend the Constitution to facilitate the resumption of executions.
Violence against women
In October a coalition of women's organizations presented a petition to political parties in Jamaica, ahead of the general election. The petition called for measures to be taken to eradicate violence against women and gender-based discrimination, in light of continued high reported levels of rape and other forms of violence against women.
There were continued reports of attacks on homosexuals by both the public and the police. In January the government refused to contemplate removing legislation that makes homosexual relations between men in private illegal, despite a recommendation by a Joint Select Committee working on the Charter of Rights Bill.
In October the United Kingdom granted refugee status to a gay man on the basis that homophobia is so severe in Jamaica that it represented a threat to his personal safety.
AI country visits
In February and August AI sent an observer to the coroner's inquest into the killing of the Braeton Seven. In April an AI delegation met the Attorney General and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Security and Information to discuss the use of the death penalty.
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