Development and Politics in the Third World. The Causes of the Major Constitutional Human Rights Violations in Jamaica

Term Paper, 2014

20 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents


Human rights violations: A culture of disregard on the part of the Police Force?
1.1 The Plague of the Police force and the right to life
1.2 The Jamaican Constabulary Force Act
1.3 Violations of the right of the child, the right to due process of law and the right to protection from torture and inhuman treatment

Economic Implications and the role of External Affairs
1.1 Economic Issues
1.2 The effect of foreign influences

The Influence of Social and Cultural norms in the violation of human rights in Jamaica
1.1 Culture on the rights of women
1.2 The issue of cultural based discrimination

Constitutional insufficiencies as enablers of human rights violations
1.1 The role of constitutional savings clauses in human rights violations


Reference List


An adherent to the Westminster- Whitehall model of constitutional democracy, Jamaica has written safeguards for the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens. And rightly so, as in recent years the notion of human rights has come to play an increasingly import role in field of International Law and in the regulation of global politics.

The Jamaican constitution, which is recognized as the set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which the Jamaican state is governed, provides an important foundation for the recognition of human rights in the country.[1] These rights are reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, the International Covenant on Economic, social and cultural rights of 1966, the 1989 UNICEF convention on the rights of the child and the American Convention on Human rights of 1969.

Under the revised charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms Act of 2011, which was a major amendment to the previous charter of human rights enshrined in the Jamaican constitution (article 14), the main human rights so recognized by the Jamaican state are to be found in article 13 (3) (a-f) of chapter III, and are separated into civil and political rights as follows:

a. The right to life, liberty and security of the person and the rights to not be deprived therefore except in the execution of the sentence of a court, in respect of a criminal offence of which a person has been convicted. Article 13 (3) a
b. The right to due process of law. Article 13 (3) r
c. The right to protection from torture, or inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment. Article 13 (3) o
d. The right to freedom of movement. Article 13 (3) f
e. The right to the freedom of expression Article 13 (3)
f. The right of every child to such measures of protection as is required by virtue of the status of being a minor or as part of the family, society and the state. Article 13 (3) k
g. The right to freedom of thought, conscience, belief and observance of political doctrine Article 13 (3) b
h. The right to equitable and humane treatment by any public authority in the exercise of any function. Article 13 (3) h
i. Protection on the grounds of (i) being Male or Female, (ii) race, place of origin, political opinions, colour Article 13 (3) i
j. The right of everyone to (i) protection from search of the person and property; (ii) respect for and protection of private and family life, and privacy of the home; and (ill) protection of privacy of other property and of communication. Article 13 (3) j

Vasciannie (2008) argues that the foundation of these constitutional human rights is important not only because it provides state agents with advance notice as to how far they may go in seeking to curtail individual rights, but also because it represents a statement by the society as to what we recognize as our most significant values (Vasciannie, 2008). Yet, since 1962, the country’s human rights record has increasingly become a matter of grave concern. So much so, that International Organizations such as Amnesty International have had to intervene by making recommendations on how to improve the current situation. The grand debate must therefore be joined with the imposition of one essential question: What are the causes of these repeated violations?

For this paper, it will be argued that human rights violations experienced in Jamaica are as a result of insufficiencies within the Constitution, which will then lead to an examination of the role of the Jamaican police force as key players in this regard. Conversely, the economic factors implicated will also be discussed in detail. In a final instance, the issue of the influence of social and cultural norms as effectors of human rights violations in Jamaica will then be engaged.

Human rights violations: A culture of disregard on the part of the Police Force?

1.1 The Plague of the Police force and the right to life

One of the most fundamental human rights enshrined within the Jamaican constitution is the right to life under article 13 (3). However, over the years, this right guaranteed to the Jamaican People has grown to know gross disregard due in large part to the actions of the police force. In fact, the high level of unjustified killings by them over the years suggests that in some matters, these agents of the state are prepared to disregard the right to life- an issue that has become ongoing in the country (Vasciannie, 2008).

According to INDECOM statistics (Jamaica's Independent Commission of investigations), in the last 15 years Jamaica has been averaging 200 security force-related fatalities annually.In their January 2014 annual report, they stated that 258 civilians lost their lives in security force involved incidents in 2013(I. This is 39 more civilians (17.8%) when compared with the 219 who died the previous year. In a series of cases investigated by Amnesty International, official police accounts claimed that fatalities occurred as a result of victim-initiated "shoot-outs" but the pattern of killing, including attempted cover-ups, suggests that they were unlawful and deliberate killings. All the victims were described by police as either criminals or wanted criminal suspects. In several cases, victims received death threats before being killed. Families in every case reported intimidation and, in one case, the family received death threats after the killings. In another case, relatives were subsequently arrested and ill-treated. The pattern of injuries was consistent in most cases with a practice of deliberate incapacitation followed by killing - a fact evident despite the poor quality of state autopsy reports in every case.[2]

The United States Department in their 2012 report affirms that violent crime remains a serious concern, and on many occasions the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) employed lethal force in apprehending criminal suspects. INDECOM investigated all police killings, and when appropriate, forwarded cases to the DPP for prosecution. However, it takes many years to bring police officers to trial for alleged unlawful killings, and the courts have convicted only one police officer of an extrajudicial killing since 2006.[3]

Noteworthy trials included that of police corporal Malica Reid, charged with the 2010 killing of prominent businessman Frederick “Mickey” Hill; the trial began in October 2011 and continued at year’s end. The case of Detective Sergeant Lloyd Kelly, charged with 2010 killing of a mentally disturbed man, went to court in January 2012 and continued at year’s end. The Public Defender’s Office, with the support of international donors, worked on an official report on the 2010 Tivoli Gardens killings of at least 73 civilians and one security force member but had not released the report by year’s end.

Therefore, the police force has played a major role in human rights violations in Jamaica, notably with regards to the right to life.

1.2 The Jamaican Constabulary Force Act

The Jamaican Constabulary force Act is a next causal factor of human rights violation on the part of the police force. Passed in 1935, the act gives the police broad powers of search and seizure. This act therefore allows for a direct violation of article 13 (3) which speaks to the right against arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and article 13 (3) H, which speaks to the right to equitable and humane treatment by any public authority in the exercise of any function. This can be illustrated through the Sheldon Gray case of 2010 which was recounted in the 2011 report from Jamaicans for Justice, who highlighted the fact that this was an example of a killing resulting from the police force’s abuse of their power. Paulette Wellington reported that her 29 year old physically challenged son Sheldon was killed by police on Sunday May 30, 2010. The security forces came to her house to search. They asked to speak with her son and she allowed them. They questioned Sheldon about being a ― “shotta” but he denied any involvement. Paulette explained that he mostly stays in the house because of his physical challenge. They accused her of talking too much and said they wanted to check him out and took him with them. Paulette reports that about 30 soldiers were interrogating Sheldon. He was then taken in a jeep for them to search to see if he was wanted. Paulette and her family searched for several days until she found out that her son had been killed at the blood bank. It was reported that he was killed after he attempted to grab a soldier’s gun. 31. In 2011 JFJ has also received a number of reports of police ―breaking into homes by cutting grills (burglar bars) and forcing their way in without the benefit of a search warrant being shown to occupants.


[1] Definition acquired from : Cynthia, B., Introduction to Caribbean Politics, Ian Randle Publishers (2002)

[2] Amnesty International Annual Report 92013), The State of the World’s Human Rights-Jamaica

[3] Jamaica 2012 human Rights Report, The US State Department

Excerpt out of 20 pages


Development and Politics in the Third World. The Causes of the Major Constitutional Human Rights Violations in Jamaica
University of the West Indies
Politics of the Caribbean
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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546 KB
Jamaica, Human Rights, Sustainable Development, Politics, Third World
Quote paper
Kavoy Ashley (Author), 2014, Development and Politics in the Third World. The Causes of the Major Constitutional Human Rights Violations in Jamaica, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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