US bashes Ja’s human rights

Jamaica has again picked up a failing grade from the United States State Department on matters of human rights. In its 2005 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, released yesterday, the U.S. Government admonished the Jamaican state for making little headway in areas it has been critical of in the past.

These include questionable police shootings and protecting homosexuals from mob attacks.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), which has been condemned in recent years for its role in questionable shootings of citizens by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, again bore the brunt of the criticism.

The State Department report said 180 citizens were killed by the Jamaican police in 2005 – 61 more than in 2004.

According to the State Department, scant regard has also been given to the rights of homosexuals who, the report said, continued to be the victims of hate crimes.

It gave the murder of Lenford Harvey, a former worker with the Jamaica AIDS Support organisation, as an example of rampant homophobia in Jamaica. Police said Mr. Harvey, 30, was abducted at his Duhaney Drive home in Kingston last November; his body was discovered by police one day later.

Four persons, including three teenagers, were charged with Mr. Harvey’s murder on Tuesday.

The U.S. State Department said Jamaica has also failed to improve its record in the following areas:

Reducing vigilante killings

Abuse of inmates and detainees at prisons and lock-ups

Poor prison and jail conditions

An overburdened judicial system

Human trafficking

The State Department report was not totally scathing. It noted that there were 735 reports of rape in Jamaica in 2005, a decline of 15 per cent from the previous year.

Dr. Carolyn Gomes, a director with local human rights group, Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), told The Gleaner yesterday that she had not seen the State Department report which was released by U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Attempts to get a comment from Attorney-General A.J. Nicholson were unsuccessful.

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