The high level of police killings in the island nation of Jamaica is attracting the attention of international human rights groups. According to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, local police have averaged between 130 and 140 killings per year over the past five years, with 145 killings in 1998. In a U.S. State Department report, the Jamaican police is cited as the major perpetrator of unauthorized or extra-judicial killings in the Caribbean and Latin America. Last month, police killed seven people in a 24-hour period. This, in a country plagued with economic stagnation, poverty and a severe crime rate. Jamaica, it should also be noted, surpasses all other nations in the region except for Colombia in the number of civilian murders.
The problem of human rights abuses among Jamaica’s police is further highlighted by the forced relocation of the homeless and mentally ill. In July, police kidnapped 32 street people in the streets of Montego Bay, and dumped them near a mud lake 50 miles away from the popular resort area. The incident, which caused public outrage, has led to no arrests.
- Lloyd D’Aguillar, freelance journalist based in Jamaica.