The United States continues to raise concerns about human rights abuses in Jamaica, citing the need for stronger action.
While noting that the government has taken steps to address the issues, it highlighted that rights abuses remain a problem.
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These and other issues were highlighted in the latest Human Rights Report on Jamaica, produced by the US Department of State, which was published on March 20. The United States keeps expressing worries about Jamaica’s violations of human rights and the need for more aggressive action.
It emphasized that rights violations continue to be a problem while acknowledging the government’s efforts to resolve the problems.
The most recent Human Rights Report on Jamaica, created by the US Department of State and released on March 20, noted these and other shortcomings.
The state department claims that sometimes civilian authorities did not have a firm grip on the security forces.
It emphasized that there have been allegations of wrongdoing by security forces personnel in 2022.
According to the State Department, civil authorities occasionally failed to exert effective control over the security forces.
It emphasized that there have been allegations of wrongdoing by security forces personnel in 2022.
The reports explained, “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of unlawful and arbitrary killings by government security forces; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by the government; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; and the existence of a law criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although the government did not enforce the law during the year,” states the report.
The agency did admit that Jamaican officials who violated human rights were investigated and prosecuted in some cases.
Nonetheless, it notes that there were reliable claims that some authorities claimed to have perpetrated human rights violations were not subject to full and prompt justice.
The State Department contends that in regard to corruption, the government failed to properly implement the law to address the issue.
“There were numerous credible allegations of government corruption, including by officials who sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, according to media reports and government audits.”
Here are some highlights from the report:
Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
Throughout the course of the year, there were several allegations of arbitrary and unlawful executions by government security personnel, as well as hundreds of claims of abuse and unjust injury. Most complaints and allegations highlighted the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), both in its functions as an autonomous agency and as part of combined military-police activities. There were also many recorded occurrences involving the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) (JDF). As of December 13, there have been 131 reports of fatalities involving security forces overall, whether they were justified or not.
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Other Related Abuses
There have been claims of individuals being subjected to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment while in the custody of the police or in detention centers. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) investigated reports of alleged abuse by police and prison guards, including the alleged brutal beating of two prisoners at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre in August, which the media suggested may have been retaliation for the killing of a corrections officer working there.
The majority of abuse complaints made to INDECOM included descriptions of intimidation, the severe physical force used during confinement, and limited access to medical care. Reports contained multiple plausible complaints of sexual assault by security agents in the year. The underreporting of victims, particularly the weak or those with mental disabilities, worried nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives.
The government seldom legally punished members of the security forces for abuses. Court backlogs resulted in lengthy delays for many cases.
Prison and Detention Centre Conditions
Due to extreme overcrowding, physical abuse, inadequate food, unsanitary surroundings, inadequate medical treatment, and bad management, circumstances in prisons and detention centers were severe and life-threatening. The most vulnerable groups dealing with severe conditions were mentally ill inmates and youngsters housed in juvenile detention centers.
Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
A person may be arrested if there is “reasonable suspicion of [a person] having committed or … about to commit a criminal offense.” according to the constitution, which forbids arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.
The government generally complied with the legal requirements that allow anyone to challenge the legality of their arrest or detention in court.
Abuses emerged, however, since police often violated the “reasonable suspicion” standard.
Detention rates were high, particularly in regions exposed to targeted law enforcement activities, and arraignment processes were relatively sluggish.
Declaration of State of Emergency (SOE) and Zones of special operations (ZOSOs)
As was put into effect in June throughout the parish of St. Catherine and in November throughout a large portion of the nation, the proclamation of a state of emergency (SOE) gives the police and military the authority to search, seize, and arrest civilians without a warrant. A 14-day or shorter SOE may be declared by the prime minister; longer periods require legislative authorization. The SOE regulations regarding indefinite detention were found to contain some unconstitutional provisions by the Supreme Court in June. The government may establish zones of special operations (ZOSOs), which give security personnel some enhanced detention authority such as are present in SOEs.
Seven ZOSOs that the government considered necessary to lower crime and violence were announced or extended by the prime minister during the year. For a significant portion of the year, certain municipalities were ZOSOs. Arbitrary and extended detentions take occurring in ZOSOs. The majority of these detentions did not result in charges.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
There have been incidents of arrests and lengthy detentions when the suspect was not informed of the formal accusations.
According to several accounts, inmates did not have access to legal representation, and suspects who were detained were unable to contact their families.
Arbitrary Arrest: The parishes of St. James, St. Catherine, Kingston, and St. Andrew had the greatest number of incidents of arbitrary detention. In order to assist the police, the administration proclaimed ZOSOs and sent military forces there.
Under these directives, security personnel carried out wide-ranging operations of arrest and jail in attempts to suppress violence. Official inquiries into or convictions of security force officers who made arbitrary detention were few.
Pretrial Detention: Lockups are meant for short-term detentions of 48 hours or less, but often the government imprisoned individuals in these facilities for far longer periods without charge or while awaiting sentencing. After an arrest, there was a lack of administrative follow-up, which led to instances where people were detained without any supporting documentation. Authorities in some cases were unable to determine the basis for the arrest until days, weeks, months, or even years later.
Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Although the constitution bans arbitrary or unlawful interference, the legislation allows extensive powers of search and seizure to security agents. The statute enables arbitrary searches of a person, vehicle, ship, or boat if police have a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.
Police have occasionally been accused of carrying out illegal searches without a warrant or a good basis. Government security personnel collected biometric data from people who were being held in temporary detention in the regions containing ZOSOs and SOEs.
The Office of the Public Defender and civil society organizations contested this practice, stating that doing so effectively criminalized people who were later cleared of all charges by keeping the information and neglecting to erase it once the police released the detained individual. Under sweeping arrest powers, security personnel held significant portions of the populace in ZOSOs and SOEs.
Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country
The legislation provided for freedom of internal movement, international travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government typically honored these linked rights. Jamaican citizens forced to leave foreign countries were not promptly given the necessary papers, and some people had to wait more than a year to return home.
Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The legislation imposes criminal consequences for official corruption, but the administration largely failed to put the law into practice.
There were numerous reports of official corruption, and corruption was a big topic of public concern. The administration has come under fire from the media and civil society organizations for bringing instances of corruption to trial slowly and even reluctantly.
Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
Domestic and international human rights organizations largely worked without official interference, investigating and disseminating their findings on human rights matters. Government representatives, including Prime Minister Holness, have openly criticized domestic human rights organizations’ activities for being a factor in the high prevalence of violent crime in the nation.
Then, in response to this criticism, the administration failed to defend human rights activists against threats of death and other forms of intimidation.