Our growing demands
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Over the past four years, a trend has developed where everybody and his wife in this country is making outrageous demands and demanding that they be met. Or else ... .
In many of these cases, those making these demands betray an embarrassing ignorance of the circumstances or consequences of what they are demanding.
The latest demand which was later racheted upward to 'threat level' came from some representatives of the police force. They demanded that the head of INDECOM, the body charged with investigating police excesses, be fired for appearing at the same press conference with Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) when their squaddies had engaged persons in an operation which left some innocent citizens dead.
For me, the implications are very worrying. Jamaicans For Justice is a human-rights organisation. From its inception, persons have been accusing it of 'defending criminals' and of being 'anti-police'. They also claim that JFJ does nothing about gunmen killing citizens.
At the heart of the problem, therefore, is an embarrassing ignorance of the role of human-rights organisations.
The objective of human-rights organisations is to act as a watchdog to prevent/highlight abuses committed by the State against citizens.
Efforts to protect human rights through international treaties began in 1919 in the League of Nations. World War II gave shocking examples of the extent to which governments would go to slaughter and subjugate their own citizens in order to hold on to power.
As a result, these efforts were expanded with treaties such as the Genocide Convention (1948), the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950).
The international promotion and protection of human rights complement the legal protection of human rights at the national level.
Let me provide another shocker for the heads of these police organisations. Even criminals have rights. When the court finds an accused guilty, such a person is usually deprived of certain rights where there is a clear legal basis for the restriction.
But it does not follow that the incarcerated person forfeits other rights. So security forces cannot just crack a skull here and deliver 20 or 30 blows to choice sections of the anatomy whenever they are out of range of security cameras.
Many of the objections and demands seem to be made by those who do not understand the role of human-rights organisations. I would, therefore, suggest respectfully that the following be considered:
1. That the history and role of human-rights organisations be introduced as part of the training of our security forces before they start their interaction with the public.
2. That we follow the example of the UK by incorporating the international norms into domestic law. So the norms of the European Convention are now part of domestic law in the UK and a resident can now bring human-rights claims in British courts under this Act. (Human Rights Act. 1998).
Any well-thinking Jamaican with a memory will agree that this country is reeling from the effects of human-rights inflation - a devaluation of human rights caused by producing too much bad human rights currency.
Stand up to them, Mr Williams - even if you have to do it sitting down.
Stony Hill, Kingston 9