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US criticises Jamaica on corruption, extrajudicial killings and stance on same-sex acts

Saturday, April 21, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The US State Department's annual human rights report, released yesterday, has criticised Jamaica on government corruption, extrajudicial killings and its stance on same-sex activities, among other issues.

“The most significant human rights issues included numerous reports of arbitrary and other unlawful killings by government security forces; entrenched government corruption within some government agencies; violence against women; sexual assault and incest committed against young girls by gang members; criminalisation of same-sex sexual activity, although these laws were not enforced during the year; and societal violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons,” the US outlined in itsCountry Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017.

It said that although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government did not implement and enforce the law effectively, and with this, officials reportedly engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

“Because of the government's weak efforts to prosecute officials' alleged corrupt practices, corruption remained a significant systemic problem of public concern,” the report stated.

It added that the media and civil society organisations continue to criticise the Director of Public Prosecutions for being slow and at times reluctant to prosecute corruption cases, as there were numerous reports of government corruption during the year.

However, it noted that the government took some steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, although a general sense of impunity remained with respect to alleged unlawful killings by agents of state.

The report — which comes at a time when several unarmed black men have been killed by US police, sparking protests and drawing national attention — cited numerous reports that Jamaica's security forces, mainly police, committed arbitrary and unlawful killings.

It said government statistics indicated that through September of 2017, government security force-related fatalities increased by 44 per cent over the same period in 2016, with 124 and 86 in the first three quarters of 2017 and 2016, respectively.

According to the report, the number of security force-involved killings from January through September deemed to have occurred under “suspicious circumstances” increased over the same period in the prior year by 10 per cent, from 29 to 32.

“Incidents in which police officers fatally shot two or more persons increased considerably, to 14 through the end of September, compared with eight in the same period of 2016. Police-involved fatalities during traffic stops along thoroughfares at night markedly increased. The proportion of victims of police-involved fatalities found to have been in possession of no weapon or only a knife or machete increased to approximately one-third.”

Meanwhile, Jamaica's anti-buggery legislation was highlighted and the Washington-based Department of State said “Homophobia was widespread in the country”.

According to the report: “The NGO Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays reported that through September it received 23 reports of human rights violations against LGBTI individuals according to its criteria, including 19 incidents of physical assault, five mob attacks, one case of employment discrimination, and six cases in which police failed to respond adequately to reports”.

The report, which also criticised several other countries, was challenged by US media reporters, who, at a news briefing yesterday, raised President Donald Trump's criticism of US media as "an enemy of the people" and calls for revising libel laws; excluding transgender people from the military; refusal to accept refugees, and travel bans on certain countries seen by courts as directed at a particular religion.

"How do you not open yourself up to charges of hypocrisy, and how effective do you think you can be at leading by example," one US reporter had asked.

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