'Long way to go'

Diplomats comment on human rights issues

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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HEADS of diplomatic missions in Jamaica yesterday commented on issues of human rights affecting the country, as they affirmed 70 years of the United Nations (UN) universal declaration of human rights at an event at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston.

Addressing fellow ambassadors, high commissioners, representatives of civil society, and other stakeholders, Head of Delegation of the European Union Malgorzata Wasilewska said note was taken of the recent focus on the release of the public defender's report into the state of affairs in St James under the state of public emergency.

“It reignited the debate regarding whether it is justifiable to suppress individual rights for national security reasons,” she remarked.

The head of delegation added that: “We do understand the comfort that the presence of the security forces brings in the troubled communities. We also welcome the announced 21.7 per cent decrease in murders for the period of January 1 to December 1, which was recently reported by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. However, it is our firm belief that the only sustainable security is one that is based on full respect of all human rights.

“It is only when people's rights and freedoms are guaranteed that our societies can thrive and become secure and strong,” she continued.

Wasilewska also commended Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Government of Jamaica for the commitment that human rights violations will not be repeated. At the same time, she noted that the European Union understood the challenges that security threats can pose to human rights.

Wasilewska also pointed to gender-based violence and sexual abuse of women and girls in Jamaica as another human rights issue, which she said EU states would continue working with the Government of Jamaica to tackle.

She said many take basic human rights for granted, but that even as countries celebrate the declaration, despite the many notable achievements worldwide in access to education, health and other areas, 70 years later there is still a lot to be done.

“The rights of many people continue to be violated and many still experience stigma and discrimination, including in Jamaica, but also including — let's be honest about it — in many of our countries. Knowing this, we cannot take human rights for granted because it is clear that there is a long way to go,” she stated.

Meanwhile, in a Jamaica Observer interview, French Ambassador to Jamaica Denys Wibaux said he welcomed the celebration of human rights day with the Jamaica people.

“It is important for me to be here to celebrate this because it's not just an anniversary, it's the human rights manifesto. This is not abstract… it is a right to life, the right to not be detained unnecessarily, the right to have our liberty respected, [and] liberty of creation,” he stated.

Wibaux further emphasised the right to due process of law when arrested, the right to an attorney, the right to access to a judge, and the right to be heard.

“That's important all over the world. The European countries recognise the challenges here in this country, because criminality is present, we recognise the efforts of the authorities and we also insist that the Government and the authorities continue to stick to respecting human rights,” he said.

In her address on behalf of the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Permanent Secretary in that ministry, Marcia Gilbert Roberts, said with the implementation of special security measures since the beginning of the year, human rights training is now delivered to all new recruits of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and other members of the Force.

Yesterday's event was held under the theme 'Art for human rights'.

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