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Title: Jamaica Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


Jamaica is a constitutional parliamentary democracy and a member of the 
Commonwealth of Nations.  Two political parties have alternated in power 
since the first elections under universal adult suffrage in 1944.  The 
last general election, held in March 1993, was marred by political 
violence and fraud.  The judiciary is independent but lacks adequate 

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has primary responsibility for 
internal security, assisted by the Island Special Constabulary Force 
(ISCF).  The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF-- army, air wing, and coast 
guard) is charged with supporting the JCF in maintaining law and order, 
although it has no powers of arrest.  While the civilian authorities 
generally maintain effective control of the security forces, some 
members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.

The economy is based on primary products (bauxite and alumina, sugar, 
bananas), services (tourism, finance), and light manufacturing (garment 
assembly).  The Government has promoted private investment to stimulate 
economic modernization and growth, pursuing in the process a sometimes 
painful program of structural adjustment.  Annual per capita income is 
only $1,560, with a widening gap between wealthy and working classes.

The Government's human rights record improved somewhat due to reform 
efforts enacted by the Police Commissioner.  Although members of the 
security forces committed extrajudicial killings and beatings and 
carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, the Government, in 
contrast to past years, moved effectively to punish some of those 
involved.  The number of policemen charged with murder more than 
quadrupled in the past 2 years.  Prison and jail conditions remained 
poor, with serious overcrowding, brutality against detainees, dismal 
sanitary conditions, and inadequate diet the norm.  The judicial system 
was overburdened and lengthy delays in trials were common.  Economic 
discrimination and violence against women remained problems, as did mob 
action against those suspected of breaking the law.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The security forces frequently employed lethal force in apprehending 
criminal suspects, usually in the guise of shoot-outs.  This resulted in 
the killing of over a hundred people during the year.  Allegations of 
"police murder" were common, but the validity of many of the allegations 
was suspect, the result of unresolved, long-standing antipathy between 
the security forces and certain communities, especially poorer urban 
neighborhoods.  The JCF conducted both administrative and criminal 
investigations into incidents involving fatal shootings by the police.  
The number of police actually charged with murder rose from single 
digits in 1993 to 35 in both 1994 and 1995.  The JCF policy statement on 
the use of force incorporates U.N.-approved language on basic principles 
related to the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials.

On April 19, a JCF corporal was suspended after killing a man during 
interrogation about a rape.  The corporal was charged with murder on May 
15.  Police authorities suspended two policemen in Mandeville July 23, 
after warning shots they fired on July 20 to disperse a crowd killed one 
person and injured two others.  Authorities suspended a policeman from 
active duty, pending further investigation, after he shot into a 
peaceful demonstration in Kingston on October 25, killing one person and 
wounding several others.

There were no developments in the murder trial of a JCF officer accused 
in two July 1993 killings.  A JCF officer initially charged with murder 
for the shooting death of a spectator during the July 1991 visit of 
Nelson Mandela was acquitted of manslaughter following trial in 
November.  A jury found a JDF corporal, charged in the 1993 killing of a 
candidate's police bodyguard, not guilty in May.

In July the Supreme Court awarded damages to the mother of 1 of the 3 
men who died when prison authorities confined 19 men in a nearly airless 
cell for 2 days in the Constant Spring jail in October 1992.  Relatives 
of the other two men who died brought similar suits.

An increased police presence brought a decline in vigilante action in 
the rural districts where it had been prevalent.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 

The law prohibits torture and other abuse of prisoners and detainees.  
Acknowledging past mistreatment of inmates, the Commissioner of 
Corrections dismissed some 60 wardens who had abused prisoners.  Despite 
the dismissals, procedures did not change significantly, and reports of 
wardens physically abusing prisoners continued.  The Jamaica Council for 
Human Rights (JCHR) noted a slight decline in the number of reports of 
physical abuse by the police.

Prison conditions remained poor, with overcrowding, inadequate diet, and 
insufficient medical care the norm.  The Government began to address the 
problem of inadequate diet by instituting programs to make the prisons 
self-sufficient in food, but it did not achieve any significant results.  
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which toured correctional 
centers in 1994, stated in a 1995 letter to the Department of 
Corrections, that it was "impressed with the efforts being made by the 
Government to transform the prison system" although it noted that it 
would take time to put needed reforms into effect.

The Government allowed private groups, voluntary organizations, 
international human rights organizations, and the media to visit prisons 
and monitor prison conditions.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

In 1994 Parliament repealed the Suppression of Crimes Act (SOCA) of 
1974, which permitted warrantless searches and the arrest of persons 
"reasonably suspected" of having committed a crime.  The Jamaica 
Constabulary Force Act, however, now contains several of these 
provisions, and reports that the police abused these provisions 

The law requires police to present a detainee in court within 48 hours 
of detention, but authorities continued to detain suspects, especially 
from poor neighborhoods, without presenting them before a judge within 
the prescribed period.  Magistrates inquire at least once per week into 
the welfare of each person listed by the JCF as being detained.  There 
is a functioning bail system for citizens, but judges regularly denied 
bail for foreign detainees.

The Constitution prohibits exile, and no instances of exile occurred.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, which exists in 
practice.  However, the judicial system is overburdened and operates 
with inadequate resources.  Budgetary shortfalls have resulted in a 
steady attrition of trained personnel, causing further delays.  Trials 
in many cases are delayed for years, and others are dismissed because 
case files can not be located.  The Justice Ministry initiated evening 
court sessions in September in an effort to reduce the backlog of 
pending cases, but there has not yet been a notable improvement in this 

The Constitution allows the Court of Appeal and the Parliament to refer 
cases to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom as a final court of 

The defendant's right to counsel is well-established, but courts appoint 
counsel for indigents only in cases of a "serious offense" (e.g., 
murder, rape, robbery, gun offenses).  However, the law does not 
consider many offenses, including wounding with intent to cause great 
bodily harm, as "serious," and courts thus try many defendants without 
benefit of counsel.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary intrusion by the State into the 
private life of the individual.  The revised Jamaica Constabulary Force 
Act continues to give security personnel broad powers of search and 
seizure similar to those granted by the former Suppression of Crimes 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and 
the Government respects these rights in practice.

The Jamaica Broadcasting Company, largely deregulated in 1988, operates 
two radio stations and one of the island's two television stations.  The 
Government's broadcasting commission has the right to regulate 
programming during emergencies.  Foreign television transmissions are 
unregulated and available to tens of thousands of Jamaicans through 
satellite antennas.  The four largest newspapers, all privately owned, 
regularly report on human rights abuses, particularly those involving 
the JCF.  Foreign publications are widely available.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice.

  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice.

The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees.  There were 
no reports of forced expulsion of anyone having a valid claim to refugee 
status.  However, the Government had not made a decision on the 1994 
applications of Cuban and Haitian asylum seekers by year's end.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their 
government peacefully.  Periodic elections are held on the basis of 
universal suffrage.  All citizens age 18 and over have the right to vote 
by secret ballot.  The last general election, in March 1993, was marred 
by violence and fraud.  The violence and fraud was most prevalent in so-
called garrison communities, which are dominated by one or the other of 
the two major political parties.  The People's National Party (PNP) 
holds a majority in the House of Representatives.  The Jamaican Labor 
Party (JLP), which has alternated in power with the PNP since 1944, has 
boycotted all by-elections since 1993, claiming that the Government had 
not implemented needed electoral reforms.  Following agreement on 
procedures by the major parties in August, voter registration will take 
place under an improved system in the future.

There are no legal limits on the participation of women in politics.  
Women hold some 13 percent of all political offices and 30 percent of 
the senior civil service positions.  Women also hold the positions of 
General Secretary of the PNP, and 2 of 16 cabinet offices.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, 
investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.  The 
work of the JCHR, the country's only formal organization concerned with 
all aspects of human rights, was hampered by the lack of adequate 
resources, and by year's end it faced having to close its office.  
Government officials are generally cooperative and responsive to the 
views of human rights organizations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, place of 
origin, political opinion, color, creed, or sex.  The Government largely 
enforces these prohibitions in practice, except for widespread 
discrimination on the basis of political affiliation in the distribution 
of scarce governmental benefits, including employment, especially in the 
garrison communities (see Section 3).


In practice, women suffer from economic discrimination, sexual 
harassment in the workplace, and social and cultural traditions that 
perpetuate violence against women, including spousal abuse.  In April 
the Government passed long-awaited legislation to provide additional 
remedies for domestic violence, including restraining orders and other 
noncustodial sentencing.

The Constitution and the 1975 Employment Act accord women full equality.  
The Bureau of Women's Affairs, in the Ministry of Labour, oversees 
programs to ensure the legal rights of women.  These programs have had 
limited effect to date, but have raised the awareness of problems 
affecting women.

A number of active women's rights groups exist.  They are concerned with 
a wide range of issues, from employment, violence against women, and 
political representation, to the image of women in media.  Their 
effectiveness is mixed, but the groups were active in pushing for 
passage of the Domestic Violence bill, and in preparations for the U.N. 
Fourth World Conference on Women.


The Juvenile Act of 1951 deals with several areas related to the 
protection of children, including prevention of cruelty, prohibition on 
causing or allowing juvenile begging, the power to bring juveniles in 
need of care or protection before a juvenile court, the treatment of 
juvenile offenders, the regulation and supervision of children's homes, 
and restrictions on employment of juveniles.  However, a Human Rights 
Watch report contends that the Government has not committed an adequate 
level of resources to enforce the Act.  Government expenditures on 
education and youth comprise 14 percent of the budget, exclusive of debt 
servicing.  The JCHR has noted instances where children who have been in 
prolonged detention by the security forces have left school permanently 
because they find it difficult to catch up with the work.

  People With Disabilities

No laws mandate accessibility for people with disabilities.  Several 
government agencies and nongovernmental organizations provide services 
and employment to various groups of disabled Jamaicans.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The law provides for the right to form or join a trade union, and unions 
function freely and independently of the Government.  The Labor 
Relations and Industrial Disputes Act (LRIDA) defines worker rights.  
There is a spectrum of national unions, some of which are affiliated 
with political parties.  Approximately 15 percent of the work force are 
members of labor organizations.

The LRIDA neither authorizes nor prohibits the right to strike, but 
strikes do occur.  Workers can interrupt work to strike without criminal 
liability but cannot be assured of keeping their jobs.  Workers in 10 
broad categories of "essential services" are prohibited from striking, a 
provision the International Labor Organization (ILO) has repeatedly 
condemned as overly inclusive.  The Government did not declare any 
strikes illegal in 1995.

Jamaican unions maintain a wide variety of regional and international 

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Government rarely interferes with union organizing efforts.  
Judicial and police authorities effectively enforce the LRIDA and other 
labor regulations.  All parties in Jamaica are firmly committed to 
collective bargaining in contract negotiations, even in some nonunion 
settings.  An independent Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) hears cases 
when management and labor fail to reach agreement.  Any cases not 
resolved by the IDT pass to the civil courts.  The IDT was not able to 
resolve the large number of disputes before it in 1995.  LRIDA prohibits 
antiunion discrimination.  For example, employers may not fire workers 
solely for union membership.  The authorities enforced this law 

Domestic labor laws apply equally to the "free zones" (export processing 
zones).  However, there are no unionized companies in any of the 3 
zones, which employ approximately 18,000 workers.  Organizers attribute 
this to resistance by foreign owners in the zones to organizing efforts.  
Attempts to organize plants within the zones continue.  Company-
controlled "workers' councils" handle grievance resolution at most free 
zone companies but do not negotiate wages or conditions with management.  
Management determines wages and benefits within the free zones; they are 
generally as good as, or better than, those in similar industries 
outside the zones.  The Ministry of Labor has not performed factory 
inspections in the free zones since 1992.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution does not specifically address the matter of forced or 
compulsory labor.  However, Jamaica is a party to both ILO conventions 
that prohibit compulsory labor, and there were no reports that this 
practice exists.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Juvenile Act provides that children under the age of 12 years shall 
not be employed except by parents or guardians, and that such employment 
may be only in domestic, agricultural, or horticultural work.  However, 
enforcement is erratic.  Children under 12 years peddle goods and 
services on city streets, but there is no evidence of widespread illegal 
employment of children in other sectors of the economy.  The Educational 
Act stipulates that all children between 6 and 11 years of age must 
attend elementary school.  Industrial safety, police, and truant 
officers are charged with enforcement.  Under current economic 
circumstances, however, thousands of parents keep children at home to 
help with housework and avoid school fees.  A 1994 report by the U.N. 
Children's Fund stated that 4.6 percent of Jamaican children (below the 
age of 16 years) worked to contribute to the support of their 

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage, which went from $9.00 (j$ 300) to $15.00 (j$ 500) per 
week in July 1994, is widely considered inadequate.  Most salaried 
workers earn more than the legal minimum.  Work over 40 hours per week 
or 8 hours per day must be compensated at overtime rates, a provision 
that is widely observed.

The Labor Ministry's Industrial Safety Division oversees the setting and 
enforcing of industrial health and safely standards, which are 
considered adequate.  Industrial accident rates, particularly in the 
alumina and bauxite industry, were once again low.  Public service staff 
reductions in the Ministries of Labor, Finance, National Security, and 
the Public Service have contributed to the difficulties in enforcing 
workplace regulations.  The law provides workers the right to remove 
themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to their 
continued employment if they are trade union members or covered by the 
Factories Act.  The law does not specifically protect other categories 
of workers in those circumstances.


[end of document]


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