The United States administration bemoans the “insufficient response” by the Jamaican Government to end violence and hold the perpetrators responsible. They are deeply concerned about the high rates of killings on the island, especially the murder of women.
The Andrew Holness administration is being urged to also curtail abuses by the security forces and government agents involved in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and what it describes as life-threatening prison conditions.
A US official told a United Nations body yesterday that “while we commend the efforts taken thus far to remedy the life-threatening conditions of Jamaica’s prisons and detention centers, the Government must continue to improve conditions and protect the human rights of those detained.”
The US is not the only one recommending changes.
The Canadian government has recommended that its Jamaican counterpart amend the INDECOM Act in line with recommendations of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament in 2015 to give the oversight body the legislative capacity to arrest, charge, and prosecute members of the security forces with unlawful killings and abuses of power.
These issues were among a litany of recommendations and comments made yesterday as Jamaica’s human-rights record was extensively examined by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group during a webcast on Wednesday.
The US stated, “End abuses by security forces and other government agents involved in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and life-threatening prison conditions and ensure swift accountability for those who commit abuses by implementing existing mechanisms to investigate and punish abuses, and clearing administrative backlogs.”
During yesterday’s United Nations Human Rights Council’s UPR discussion, a representative from the UK also expressed concern about the “high rate of fatal shooting incidents involving the security forces”.
Addressing members of the UN body, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said that the protection of human rights and the rule of law remain priorities for the Jamaican Government as evidenced by initiatives undertaken by the administration.
She told the group that Jamaica’s Ministry of National Security was developing the Law Enforcement Protection of Integrity Act, which will define the standards of operation for all individuals engaged in law-enforcement activities to include considerations for human rights.
Johnson Smith said that the Government is also promulgating a less-lethal-weapons policy, which will provide a regime that will regulate access to less-lethal devices such as pepper sprays for personal protection.
“The policy will also facilitate options for graduated use of force by the security forces in the application of less-lethal weapons such as electroshock weapons, thereby reducing the potential for excessive use of force against the public,” she explained.