Jamaica: Recommendations from precedent cycle still pending for implementation
The fourth periodic report of Jamaica was reviewed by the Human Rights Committee on 18th and 19th October 2016. At its opening remarks, the State Delegation highlighted that Jamaica has made significant progress in the promotion and protection of human rights and in strengthening its human rights machinery through the adoption of the Charter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms since its last appearance before the Committee in 2011. Nonetheless, most of the recommendations from the previous cycle are still pending for implementation.
"The State party should amend its laws with a view to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity"
National Human Rights Institution
Despite the recommendation made by the Human Rights Committee in its previous Concluding Observations to Jamaica, the State has not established a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in accordance the Paris Principles. The same recommendation was also made during the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2011 and then again in the second cycle in 2015. The lack of a robust national mechanism for the protection and promotion of the rights enshrined in the Covenant has contributed the sustained human rights challenges experienced in Jamaica. The substitute institution, the Public Defender, which the government plans to expand to form the NHRI does not accord with the minimum standards outlined in the Paris Principles.
Criminalisation of same-sex relations
On the issue of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in Jamaica was also of utmost concer of the Human Rights Committtee in the review of 2011. Among other recommendations, the Committee stated that "The State party should also decriminalize sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, in order to bring its legislation into line with the Covenant and put an end to prejudices and the social stigmatization of homosexuality." However, no amendements have been made to the legislation on this regard. Sections 76 and 77 of the Jamaican Offences Against the Person Act characterise male same-sex sexual conduct as an “unnatural offence” and an “abominable crime.” Additionally section 79 of the Offences Against the Person Act criminalises “any act of gross indecency” by one male with another, whether the conduct takes place “in public or private:” (see report Human Rights Violations Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) People in Jamaica: A Shadow Report). On the other hand, the Committee members brought up a 2015 study indicating that a large number of LGBTI persons did not report incidents of physical or verbal assaults because they felt the incidents were too minor to be reported or because they had the feeling that the police would not take any action or worse had homophobic attitudes.
Another issue discussed during the review was the issue of incarcerated children. The delegation explained that even though the resources were limited, the State created special quarters in specific police stations to host children and separate them from adult detainees. The Committee recognised these efforts but asked if the State party would consider implementing a legal provision prohibiting the incarceration of children with adults. On the same issue, the experts brought up the possibility of eliminating children detention. Indeed, most of the incarcerated children had a past of abuse and would be in bigger need of assistance than incarceration. The delegation responded that it was only in extreme cases that children were kept in lockups and the authorities intended to keep children in child-friendly and safe facilities. Moreover, the State established a limit of 24 hours after which, if no charges had been taken, the child should be release. Finally, Jamaica is developing its child policies with the help of international partners, including the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Recommendations of the Committee
The Concluding Observations for which the State should provide information on the implementation within one year, concern:
- Voluntary termination of pregnancy: The Government of Jamaica should amend its abortion legislation to help women address unplanned pregnancies. It should further take measures to protect women against the health risks associated with unsafe abortions by improving its monitoring and data collection on women’s access to health care and by enabling access to sexual and reproductive health information and services to all women.
- Prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: The State should expedite its efforts to reduce overcrowding in places of detention, including by resorting to alternatives to imprisonment, and improve conditions of detention, particularly with regard to sanitary conditions and access to medical care.. The State party should adopt legislation governing pre-trial detention and put in place a system separating accused persons from convicted persons.
- Rights of the child: The State party should amend its law in a timely manner to remove the possibility of incarcerating a child on the basis of being “beyond parental control” and to address gaps in service delivery to children in conflict with the law and rehabilitation of children who experienced exploitation, abuse and other trauma. The State party should use detention of children only as the last resort and for the shortest appropriate period provided by law, continue establishing child-friendly holding cells and provide alternative arrangements to detention.
The next (fifth) periodic report of Jamaica should be submitted by 4 November 2021.
Photo credit: Repeating Islands