Reports of police brutality continued. A number of police officers were charged and tried after unlawful killings, but none was convicted. At least 168 people were killed by the police, many in circumstances suggesting they were extrajudicially executed. Conditions of detention frequently amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. At least two people were sentenced to death; there were no executions.
Jamaica continued to suffer from increasing levels of violence; 1,674 people were reportedly murdered during 2005, an increase on previous years. At least 13 police officers were killed. In May, three police officers were killed within hours of each other in apparently coordinated attacks.
Unlawful killings and impunity
At least 168 people were allegedly killed by members of the police, an increase over the previous year.
For the sixth consecutive year, no police or army officers were convicted of unlawful killings committed while on duty. Investigations into alleged extrajudicial executions remained inadequate. Police officers often failed to protect crime scenes, and statements from officers were often taken only after long delays.
Numerous police officers charged with unlawful killings fled from justice, including the officer charged with the murder of 10-year-old Renee Lyons in 2003 in Kingston.
- In February, six police officers were acquitted of the 2001 murder of seven young men in Braeton despite overwhelming evidence that the seven had been extrajudicially executed. The judge ruled that the prosecution had failed to present sufficient evidence for the case to continue.
- In August, six police officers were charged with the murder while on duty of two elderly men killed when police officers opened fire on their taxi in the Flankers area in October 2003. The trial had not taken place by the end of 2005.
- In December, the trial of six police officers charged with the murder of two men and two women in Crawle in 2003 resulted in acquittals. In July, two police officers were charged with intending to pervert the course of justice and other offences in connection with the killings. It was alleged that the officers had attempted to alter the crime scene to make it appear that the victims had fired at the police. The investigation was not completed by the end of 2005.
- In December, three police officers were acquitted of the murder of 15-year-old Jason Smith in 2003 in Kingston.
In October, a law was passed to establish a police Civilian Oversight Authority. However, the law did not mandate the Authority to play any major role in investigating alleged unlawful killings by police but related to matters such as the efficient use of resources.
In November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report critical of Jamaica's handling of the case of Michael Gayle, who was allegedly beaten to death by members of the security forces in 1999. No one was ever charged with the killing.
New sentencing hearings were held following the 2004 decision by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional. At least four prisoners were re-sentenced to death and at least 11 had their sentences commuted to terms of imprisonment.
Throughout 2005, high levels of crime led to calls for the resumption of executions. There were discussions between the government and the opposition regarding changes to the Constitution to facilitate executions.
Torture and ill-treatment in detention
Conditions in prisons and other places of detention were reported to be harsh and in many cases amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
In April, one prisoner and one guard were shot dead and other prisoners beaten during an attempted escape from the Tower Street Correctional Centre. A government-appointed Board of Inquiry investigated the incident and found numerous violations of prisoners' human rights, including one prisoner beaten to death by guards and another dying because he was not given timely medical attention after being injured. There were no reported criminal charges brought in connection with the abuse of prisoners.
Violence against women
According to government figures, in the first eight months of 2005 there were 835 reported sexual assaults against women and girls, of which 67 per cent were against girls, and 16 per cent were at gunpoint. Most injuries to women were inflicted by an intimate partner. Rates of HIV infection among women and girls were rising, and people living with HIV faced systematic discrimination.
Routine investigations of sexual assaults were reported to be inadequate, and despite the special units set up to work with victims of sexual assault, police investigations were often returned to the regular constabulary.
Amendments to reform and update the Offences against the Person Act and the Incest (Punishment) Act, submitted to parliament in 1995, were still awaiting approval. Marital rape was still not a criminal offence. In sexual assault cases only, judges were required to warn juries that women and young girls sometimes told lies.
In November Jamaica ratified the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará).
Gay men and lesbians
Gay men and lesbians continued to face violence and discrimination on a daily basis. In August, two men were convicted of buggery and sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour, suspended for two years. During previous hearings, the two men had been insulted by crowds gathered outside the courthouse. In September, popular musician Buju Banton was charged with assaulting six men who he alleged were homosexuals. His song lyrics repeatedly advocated violence against gay men and lesbians. In November, AIDS activist Steven Harvey was murdered, allegedly because of his homosexuality.
AI country visits
In April and November delegations visited Jamaica to hold talks with non-governmental organizations addressing violence against women in Jamaica. In November, a delegation observed the trial of six police officers on charges of murder.
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