Amnesty Int'l critical of Jamaica, Haiti, The Bahamas

Originally posted here, February 27, 2017

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The London-based international human rights group, Amnesty International, has criticised the situation in three Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries on issues ranging from the “ill-treatment of documented migrants” to alleged crimes against humanity.

In its 2017 “State of the World’s Human Rights,” Amnesty International paid attention to alleged human rights abuses in Haiti, Jamaica and the Bahamas. The other CARICOM countries were not mentioned in the report released over the weekend.

The report noted that in the Bahamas, there was widespread ill-treatment of undocumented migrants from countries including Haiti and Cuba.

It said the Dominican Republic deported thousands of people of Haitian descent – including Dominican-born people who were effectively rendered stateless – while often failing to respect international law and standards on deportations.

“Upon arrival to Haiti, many people who had been deported settled in makeshift camps, where they lived in appalling conditions. Despite a commitment from newly elected authorities in the Dominican Republic to address the situation of stateless individuals, tens of thousands of people remained stateless following a 2013 Constitutional Court ruling which retroactively and arbitrarily deprived them of their nationality. In February, the IACHR described a “situation of statelessness… of a magnitude never before seen in the Americas”.

Amnesty International said that rampant impunity allowed human rights abusers to operate without fear of the consequences weakened the rule of law, and denied truth and redress to millions.

“Impunity was sustained by justice and security systems that remained under resourced, weak and often corrupt, compounded by a lack of political will to ensure their impartiality and independence. The resulting failure to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to justice allowed organised crime and abusive law enforcement practices to take root and prosper.

“Denial of meaningful access to justice also left huge numbers of people – including in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela – unable to claim their rights.”

Amnesty International said in Jamaica, impunity prevailed for the decades-long pattern of alleged unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions by law enforcement officials.

“While more than 3,000 people have been killed by law enforcement officials since 2000, only a handful of officials have been held accountable to date. In June, the Commission of Enquiry into alleged human rights violations during the 2010 state of emergency made recommendations for police reform; by the end of the year Jamaica had yet to outline how it would implement the reforms. “

The human rights group noted that in Haiti, no progress was made in the investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed by former President Jean-Claude Duvalier and his former collaborators.

It said that States made little headway in tackling violence against women and girls. This included failing to protect them from rape and killings as well as failing to hold perpetrators accountable. Reports of gender based violence came from Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Jamaica, Nicaragua, the USA and Venezuela, among other countries.

Amnesty noted that legislative and institutional progress in some countries – such as the legal recognition of same-sex marriage – did not necessarily translate into better protection against violence and discrimination for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people.

“Across the Americas, high levels of hate crime, advocacy of hatred and discrimination, as well as murders and persecution of LGBTI activists persisted in countries including Argentina, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, the USA and Venezuela.”

In the Bahamas, Amnesty International noted Bahamians voted “no” in a constitutional referendum on gender equality in citizenship matters in June.

“Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people continued, it said, adding that in the June referendum Bahamians voted on gender equality in citizenship matters under Bahamian law.

“The proposed amendments – backed by the government – would have strengthened anti-discrimination protections based on sex. The result maintained inequality in Bahamian laws so that women and men pass on citizenship to their children and spouses in different ways.

“The result put at risk the citizenship rights of families, in particular the risk of separation of families with diverse nationalities or children born outside of the Bahamas to Bahamian parents.”

Amnesty said that stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued and in April, activists founded the group Bahamas Transgender Intersex United.

In Jamaica, Amnesty said that unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions continued. Violence against women and discrimination against LGBTI people persisted. Children continued to be detained in violation of international standards.

It said that despite committing to the establishment of a national human rights institution, Jamaica had not established the mechanism by the end of the year.

“Jamaica continued to have one of the highest homicide rates in the Americas,” Amnesty International reported, saying that in June, a Commission of Enquiry published its much-anticipated report into the events that took place in Western Kingston during the state of emergency, declared on 23 May 2010, which left at least 69 people dead.

“Almost 900 pages long, the report identified a number of cases of possible extrajudicial execution and produced a number of important recommendations for police reform. In an official response, the Jamaica Constabulary Force accepted a number of recommendations, such as committing to hold administrative reviews into the conduct of officers named in the Commissioners’ report.”

But Amnesty said that the police continued to refuse to accept any responsibility for human rights violations or extrajudicial executions during the state of emergency.

“By the end of the year, the government had still not officially indicated how it would implement the recommendations of the Commissioners. While the number of killings by police have been significantly reduced in recent years, 111 people were killed by law enforcement officials in 2016, compared with 101 in 2015. “Women whose relatives were killed by police, and their families, experienced pervasive police harassment and intimidation, and faced multiple barriers to accessing justice, truth and reparation.”

The human rights group said that Jamaica again failed to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, signed in September 2000, nor had it adhered to the UN Convention against Torture or the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.


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