Global perspective Human stories

Better trained forces in Jamaica could stop extrajudicial killings, UN expert says

Better trained forces in Jamaica could stop extrajudicial killings, UN expert says

Jamaica’s senior officials, who recognize the need for better security force accountability, must streamline the Caribbean island’s criminal justice system to reduce summary killings, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights says.

"The Special Rapporteur recognizes the challenge faced by the security forces in controlling crime and violence, but underlines that a high crime rate is not an excuse for the excessive use of force on the part of State authorities," Asma Jahangir says in her report to the upcoming session of the Geneva-based Commission.

"The Government must take measures to streamline the criminal justice system, so that complainants have access to all legal remedies and that justice is fully served," she adds.

Ms. Jahangir conducted a mission to Jamaica from 17 to 27 February 2003 at the invitation of the Jamaican government. Among the people she interviewed were relatives of persons who allegedly had been executed extrajudicially, as well as witnesses.

"Following her mission, it was the Special Rapporteur's distinct impression that extrajudicial executions by the police and, possibly, in a very few cases, also Jamaican Defence Forces, had in fact taken place," she says in her report.

Ms. Jahangir adds that she could not judge the guilt or innocence of anyone - "this eventually has to be determined through a due process of law" - but the criminal justice system in Jamaica lacked the appropriate capacity to deal with such cases.

People in poor urban areas saw two justice systems, meanwhile: "one for the privileged and affluent" and "rough justice for the socially and economically marginalized," she says.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be re-oriented "so that it is perceived to be serving the interests of the public" and there should be a procedure to review its decisions not to send complainant cases to trial, she says. The capacities of investigators should be enhanced and forensic experts should be independent of the police.

Jamaican law enforcement officials must be trained to observe international standards, according to the Special Rapporteur, who stresses that training should include alternatives to the use of lethal force and contingency plans for armed encounters.