Why human rights groups go wrong

Jamaica Observer
The relentless march of civilisation has given rise, inevitably, and thankfully, to the emergence of a preponderance of human rights groups, without which this world would be a dark and desperately wicked place. And even with their presence, there is still far too much misery and cruelty as man’s inhumanity to man abounds.
Jamaica has its share of human rights groups, the most well known of which are Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ), the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights (IJCHR) and Families Against State Terrorism (FAST), albeit an apparent one-person organisation.
Frankly, we couldn’t begin to imagine a world, or a Jamaica for that matter, without human rights groups. All three – JFJ, IJCHR and FAST – appear to have a common target – the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), and to a lesser extent, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) while it conducts joint patrols with the police force.
But it is here now that the dilemma begins.
We think it is full time that this common mandate of theirs be reviewed, broadened and deepened. It cannot be that breaches of human rights are only contained in abuses by the police and/or soldiers.
This inordinate insistence on making loud cries when the security forces go wrong but never nearly enough when criminals and other groups go wrong, has created the unfortunate perception that our human rights groups are more interested in the welfare of alleged criminals than in their alleged victims.
Obviously, there is much work to be done to reform and clean up the police force. We would never be so foolish as to stick our head in the sand where the shortcomings of the force are concerned. In this regard, we commend the work of our human rights groups.
However, we strongly believe that victims’ rights are as important as those of criminals, if not paramount. It may be that because their funding is attached to their stated mandate, human rights groups feel constrained not to stray from their articles of association or their memorandum of understanding.
That may also explain why in a crime-ridden country like Jamaica, our human rights groups appear impotent to effectively join the fight against crime and violence.Of course they will argue that their contribution is in trying to clean up the police force and, hopefully, increase the confidence of the public to supply the constabulary with information against criminals.
What we are saying is that they need to do more to be relevant in today’s Jamaica. If we face the facts, and we had better, we’d admit that criminals are getting more vicious. We are in a time when it means nothing to them to cut the throat of a baby on the breast or a helpless octogenarian woman.
It is wrong that decent Jamaicans must bear the image of brute beasts in a country with the dubious reputation of being the second most murderous in the world. It is wrong that each year the murder toll is higher than the previous. It is wrong that Jamaicans who have left our shores to work for years in extreme cold cannot come home to retire, because of fear of crime. At some point, we have to deal with this monster.
If human rights groups think that it is only the poor, jobless ones who commit crime, they are making a sad mistake. Organised crime has brains and resources behind it. The poor are merely the foot soldiers and often by choice too.
Our human rights groups need to get on board by rethinking their mandate and looking beyond their donors’ public relations need.

Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

One thought on “Why human rights groups go wrong”

  1. It is simplistic to think that the JFJ, IJCHR and FAST only have the JCF and JDF as the common target (the latter as the author points out “to a lesser extent”) The reality is that recognizing Jamaica’s crime problem, one has to also recognise that the JCF and JDF are employed to “protect and serve”, not to add to the crime problem. Only with a relatively clean force and a fair, efficient judicial system will Jamaicans have the confidence to trust in state security as opposed to private security firms (for those who can afford it) or the local don (for others who can afford this- as there is always a cost whether financially , socially or otherwise)In case the writer of the Observer article forgot, in trying to excuse the JCF and JDF by shifting the focus to the Human rights Groups, the Police and Defense Force are employed by the State to ensure that our human rights are protected and not infringed (insofar as the country’s laws enshrine human rights).


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