Population: 2.7 million (992,000 under18)
Government Armed Forces: 2,830
Compulsary Recruitment Age: no conscription
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 17 years and 6 months (training only)
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 9 May 2002
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182

The minimum age for voluntary recruitment was 18 years. Younger recruits could enter training at 17 years and 6 months with parental consent.


The police faced high levels of violence related to drugs and arms trafficking and one of the highest homicide rates in the world, while in turn being responsible for hundreds of arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial executions.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

According to Jamaica's declaration on ratification of the Optional Protocol, all service in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) was voluntary. Recruits of 17 years and 6 months could enlist in the JDF, but those under 18 required written parental consent, and they could not graduate from training institutions until the age of 18. Recruits over 18 served in the regular force or in the regular and reserve forces under service contracts for periods of up to 12 years. Under-18s could serve a longer term, as their 12-year service began only when they reached the age of 18. Contracts could be further renewed.2 Candidates for the reserve had to be over 18.3

The 2004 Child Care and Protection Act aimed to bring all child legislation in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it did not specifically prohibit the enlistment of under-18s in the defence forces.4

Military training and military schools

A new Military Education Policy was being developed to improve education and performance standards in the armed forces.5

Around 560 boys and girls in secondary-schools throughout Jamaica were members of the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force, which was affiliated to but not formally part of the armed forces.6 Members received basic military training aimed at stimulating interest in a military career and at showing how defence forces functioned.

The JDF took part in international training exercises with the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA and with countries in the Regional Security System. It also provided training to the forces of other Caribbean countries.7

Armed Groups:

Under-18s were reportedly among members of armed gangs which developed in the context of the political patronage and political violence that characterized electoral politics from the 1960s to the 1980s, and which were responsible for gang and community violence.8 A quarter of those arrested for violent crimes were school-age children, mainly boys.9 The large number of guns in inner-city areas appeared to be an important factor in the recent upsurge of more informal groups not connected to political patronage. Boys of 16 or 17 were often considered "soldiers" in gang warfare, and 14-year-olds acted as gun carriers or lookouts.10

The government's Violence Prevention Alliance, launched in 2004, brought together non-governmental, business, international and intergovernmental agencies. The Xchange movement, a regional initiative supported by UNICEF to bring about positive change among young people and adults, was launched in Jamaica in May 2005. Other programs included the training of community youth leaders and outreach activities such as skills and mediation training in communities severely affected by violence.11

1 Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO), Security and Citizenship Program, Latin American and the Caribbean Security Sector Report, Country case study: Jamaica, October 2006, www.flacso.cl; Amnesty International Report 2007.

2 1962 Defence Act, www.moj.gov.jm (laws of Jamaica).

3 Jamaica Defence Force, Reserves, www.jdfmil.org.

4 UNICEF, Advancing Children's Rights in Jamaica: Report on Legislative Reform Initiative, November 2004, www.unicef.org.

5 Jamaica Defence Force, JDF members.

6 Jamaica Defence Force, JCCF, Cadet Force.

7 FLACSO, above note 1. (The Regional Security System comprises Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; see www.rss.org.bb.)

8 Luke Dowdney, Neither War nor Peace, Children and Youth in Organized Armed Violence (COAV), 2005, www.coav.org.br.

9 UN Secretary-General, World Report on Violence against Children, 20 November 2006, www.violencestudy.org.

10 Dowdney, above note 8.

11 UNICEF Jamaica, Violence, www.unicef.org.


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