Justice For All? writer complains of ‘gay rights” superceeding other issues

Eldira Neil, 

Justice For All?

A spectre is haunting Jamaica – the spectre of injustice.

Jamaica Gleaner Company

How else can one describe the series of recent court decisions where unjust sentences have been handed down and bail given in very questionable circumstances!

The case of the rapist who went through all the processes and was found guilty by a jury of his peers and was only handed a sentence of 12 years is one that has evoked the vitriol and bitterness of society.

The circumstances of the case, as carried in the media, involved a young girl who was brutally raped, then placed in a grave to die. The victim, a young girl, armed with the strong will to live, clawed her way out of her grave and was able to save her life. Then we have a judge who, for reasons known or unknown, taking the decision that 12 years was sufficient payback for such heinous, premeditated crimes. This is an injustice! Praises are accorded to the director of public prosecutions and the police for pursuing this case and for, according to news reports, presenting an airtight submission for the courts.

More pathetic

What is even more pathetic is the response from our human-rights watchdog organisations. Thus far, Jamaicans for Justice, which in the past has sought judicial reviews on decisions it believes to be unjust, has not said a word. JFJ cannot claim it does not rant against the decisions of the courts. It has done so many times in the past.

What is the difference now? Is it that JFJ is only concerned about human rights for some, those it represents, or is it human rights for all? Maybe the international donor agencies which support the work of JFJ and other such entities are only concerned about the human rights of persons they select. Who speaks on behalf of the victims?

The minister of justice seems to be taking every initiative to make the prison life of convicts easier. I have never heard Delroy Chuck, since his elevation to justice minister, speak about the horror victims of crime have to endure. It is sad, it is wretched, but who speaks on behalf of this girl who suffered, is still suffering and who will continue to suffer? Where is her justice? Certainly, the decision of the judge is a statement that justice within the hallowed halls of our courts is but a fabled myth.

Not for a second is this writer saying the brutalisation of citizens by agents of the state should be condoned. Justice and human rights are must be applied to all. Our judges are failing us. Who speaks for the victims? Not Carolyn Gomes, not Yvonne McCalla-Sobers.

It seems supporting the rights of homosexuals is of more importance now than the rights of the young girl who was raped. Or, maybe international donors are more likely to provide funds to organisations which support the repeal of our buggery laws than giving support for the victims of rape. By the way, our buggery laws are antiquated and should be repealed.

The families of Khajeel Mais, the young man who was brutally murdered in a taxi and a man who was shot and killed in Manchester recently, must be in shock and fear following the decisions of two different judges to grant bail to the persons charged with the murder of these individuals. In the case of the former, the person charged has even refused to hand over his licensed firearm to the authorities. .

Remember Tesha Miller? This individual was known for his leadership role in the Clansman gang in Spanish Town. He was charged at least four times, for murder, yet almost every time he faced the courts he received bail. There is also a recent case where a man was granted bail and the next day he went home and murdered his father.

These judges, who are supposed to be the great levellers in our system of justice, are leading us on a rather precipitous path.

Let us, therefore, remember the victims of crime. Let us speak for all injustice and let us join the movement for human rights for ALL.

Scenes from May 6th Stand for Tolerance by combined advocates

Jamaicans for Justice ED – Carolyn Gomes

Maurice Tomlinson at stand
Road Scenes at the Stand on May 6th 2011
Yvonne McCalla Sobers (Families Against State Terrorism) FAST

Jamaicans for Justice on: “Exposing The Painful Truth”

Dr Carolyn Gomes,

Executive Director Jamaicans for Justice speaking after the recent United Nations vote to remove sexual orientation from the list of judicial killings supported by our Jamaican government and other states such as Cuba and strangely enough South Africa who originally was on a roll post apartheid and the new thrust for implementing rights to its citizenry.

Dr. Gomes wrote:

It was an interesting feeling to be in Geneva, Switzerland, and talk to a representative from a foreign country about Jamaica’shuman rights. Many of these representatives have never been here, and only know about our country through tourism advertisements and the classic reggae song One Love.

It was my duty to explain that Jamaica’s international reputation as the home of “no problem, man” belies its abysmal record of human-rights abuses which includes extrajudicial police killings, inhuman prison conditions, and cruel treatment of homosexuals.

The diplomats I met were surprised to hear about the extent of Jamaica’s human-rights infractions. And, indeed, that’s the main reason why I went to Switzerland.

Along with two of my colleagues, I met with foreign representatives who were attending the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This is a process where the human-rights records of all 192 UN member states are examined. The UPR, started in 2008, requires each country to account for its human-rights record every four years.

Fulfil their human-rights obligations

The UPR provides each UN member state – including countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom – with the chance to explain the actions they have taken to improve the human-rights situations in their countries and fulfil their human-rights obligations in accordance with international laws.

The 2010 UPR that took place earlier this month marked the first time that Jamaica’s human-rights record was examined. I’m deeply honoured that the organisation I’m part of – Jamaicans For Justice – was able to brief several dignitaries beforehand about our concerns with Jamaica’s record.

At the UPR, the Government of Jamaica was represented by Marlene Malahoo Forte, minister of state, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. When she took the podium, she told the assembled diplomats that “We are moving in the right direction.” To emphasise her point, Ms Malahoo Forte repeated her statement at least nine times within 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, repeating a phrase doesn’t make it true.

Jamaica Gleaner Company

Wrong direction

The painful truth is that Jamaica is speeding in the wrong direction. Ms Malahoo Forte’s statement ignores two recent statistics: First, the number of police shootings in Jamaica has increased and will likely top 400 this year. Second, the number of children being held in places of adult detention – in itself, a direct violation of Jamaican law – has increased from the 68 reported to Parliament by Prime Minister Bruce Golding in February this year to more than 100 in October 2010.

More than 40 countries made 119 recommendations to strengthen and improve Jamaica’s record. I doubt that the countries evaluating Jamaica’s human-rights inaction were satisfied with the Government’s official excuse. I know I certainly wasn’t. And neither should you be.

Human rights aren’t a privilege that the Government hands out to the upper classes or the people with ‘good hair’. They apply to all of us, regardless of whether we vote for the Jamaica Labour Party or the People’s National Party, drink Red Stripe or Heineken, or prefer Gaza to Gully Side.

The UPR is a reminder of how far we have to go to improve our human rights. A great Jamaican gave the world the song One Love, and it has become a global anthem from Azerbaijan to Zaire. It’s time we start practising it in our own yard.

Dr Carolyn Gomes is executive director of civic action group, Jamaicans for Justice. Feedback may be sent to columns@gleanerjm.com

JFJ Press Release: Policing cowboy style – round em up and lock em up, JFJ Press Release

June 17, 2008 – Kingston, Jamaica — Last weekend’s cowboy-style round-up that saw the arbitrary detention of a reported 107 young men must be a timely warning to policy makers who have recently called for legislation that will enlarge police powers and make it legal to detain persons for six weeks without charge. Whilst the details of the event are sketchy, we understand that only one person has been charged in connection with breaching the terms of his bail. All others have been released.
Superintendent Harry Daley’s account in a radio interview is that he was at the dance where the events occurred and there he was confronted by army personnel. He was in uniform and declared his rank and his identity. When he demanded to know who was in charge, an army major drew his 9mm pistol and stuck it in his face with words to the effect that ‘the 9mm’ was ‘in charge’. These events raise serious questions, among them:
1. What intelligence led to the raid that excluded the police commander in charge of the area in which the operation was staged?
2. What operational orders did the army personnel have, that would have emboldened the commanding major to draw his weapon on a uniformed police superintendent who declared that he was the commander in charge of St. Catherine North?
3. Why was the army running an operation that properly ought to have been a police matter?

Outside of the operation’s legitimacy, the ugly and embarrassing fall-out over protocol, power and chain of command between the police and the army begs for public caution.

These questions and many more take on even more serious implications in the context of proposed legislation to legitimize the detention of persons for up to six weeks without charge.

In every instance in the past that Jamaican citizens have been called upon to surrender civil liberties, their lot has worsened not improved. The strategy of asking for citizens to surrender their civil liberties in the interest of fighting crime has been tried ad nauseum since the state of emergency in 1976. It has not resulted in a decrease in violent crime; in fact this tactic has had the opposite effect. Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) acknowledges that crime in Jamaica is an extraordinary challenge but believes that the country’s success in defeating crime is not to be found in extraordinary police powers. It is to be found in extraordinary police men and women providing exemplary leadership and service and acting to uphold the law and the constitution.

We call upon the Prime Minister not to enhance the police powers of detention and the encroachment of individual civil liberties but instead to:
a) Enhance the police capabilities to solve crime;
b) Enhance the Criminal Justice System’s capabilities to rely on scientific evidence and to deal with matters expeditiously and justly;
c) Heighten its social intervention in economically depressed communities;
d) Heighten its school programs that emphasize civic responsibility, family values and respect for authority;
e) Punish corruption and mediocrity. Reward honesty and excellence; and
f) Hold everyone to account.

JFJ urgesthe Prime Minister to view last weekend’s regrettable events as a caution against this latest call for civil liberties to be surrendered, ostensibly to fight crime. We succeed or fail in any struggle by the quality of our decisions not the quality of our conditions.