Sat | May 25, 2019

Jamaica continued to face important human rights challenges in 2018, says EU report

Published:Thursday | May 16, 2019 | 11:05 AM
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Jamaica continued to face important human rights challenges in 2018.

That was the declaration of the European Union in its Human Rights and Democratisation Annual Report.

The report states that these challenges include unlawful killings by the security forces, gender violence, discrimination and corruption.

Regarding corruption, the EU noted that Jamaica fell two places in the 2018 Corruption Perception Index, moving from 70th last year compared with 68th in 2017.

It was also pointed out that the Integrity Commission, Jamaica's single anti-corruption body responsible for investigating and prosecuting acts of corruption, came into effect in 2018.

“It is currently investigating a major scandal relating to allegations of nepotism, waste of public funds and mismanagement at the state-owned oil refinery, Petrojam,” the report pointed out.

Despite the challenges, the EU acknowledged that Jamaica made positive steps in 2018.

“Notable positive developments included a significant reduction in the country's murder rate (22% compared to 2017), the conviction of a police constable involved in an apparent police death squad, tabling of a Parliamentary report reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and other related Acts, and the announcement of plans to establish the first state-run national shelter to assist women victims of gender violence.”

Here are other highlights from the report.

States of Emergency

The first of three States of Emergency was introduced in January 2018.

The parliamentary opposition questioned the constitutionality of the repeated extensions.

A report of the Office of the Public Defender criticised the conditions of persons detained under the State of Emergency.

Despite appeals for continuation of the measure, the State of Emergency will end on January 31, 2019.

The report and the opposition's position fostered a debate on human rights and equality across the country.

The government committed to safeguarding human rights for all and to ensuring that the rights of persons taken into custody are not violated.

Gender-based violence

The levels of gender-based and sexual violence remain a concern.

In line with the 10-year National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-based violence (December 2017), the government announced in November 2018 plans to establish the first state-run national shelter for women who need to leave abusive situations.

The shelter should be operational within the first quarter of 2019.

Human rights

In October, the Government announced to set up a National Human Rights Institution which will complement existing institutions mandated to protect the rights of citizens.

Sexual offences review

The Parliamentary Committee which was set up to review four key pieces of legislation (the Sexual Offences Act, the Offences against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Care and Protection) tabled its report in December, which included positive but also some controversial recommendations.

The report i.a. recommended amending legislation to ensure protection of women from rape irrespective of their marital status.

The LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual) community still faces discrimination but is becoming more vocal in its efforts to advance LGBTI rights.

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