Representatives from the United Kingdom and the United States of America say they are concerned about the high level of crime in Jamaica, especially as it relates to fatal shootings involving security forces and violence against women.
These issues were among those raised during the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group webcast, where Jamaica’s human-rights record was extensively examined.
The island’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith represented Jamaica and was among over 60 representatives that made remarks on Wednesday.
During the webcast, the most common issues highlighted in Jamaica were those that pertained to violence against women and children, human trafficking, violence against the LGBT+ community and police brutality.
Rita French, the representative from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, said they “remained concerned about the high level of abuses in correctional facilities and the high levels of fatal shootings involving security personnel.”
She urged the government to strengthen the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM). Jamaica’s Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck had later announced that the ministry had taken the recommendation, with laws that will be amended to strengthen the investigative powers of INDECOM.
Similar sentiments were also echoed by the United States’ representative, Sean Garcia recommended that Jamaica end abuses by security forces and other government agents involved in extrajudicial killings as well as ensure swift accountability for those who commit abuses.
He also stated that America was equally concerned about the high rates of homicide and femicide in Jamaica and criticized the government for their “insufficient response” to end violence and hold the perpetrators responsible.
Additionally, he called for the government to repeal the “Offenses Against The Persons Act”, where it criminalizes same-sex relations between consenting adults.
Garcia, however, commended the steps being taken by the government to improve prison and detention conditions across the island and encouraged the Holness-led administration to continue to do so.
Addressing members of the UN body, Minister 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.