In a Jam (aica)

After a long period of being neglected in the UK press, Jamaica is on the front pages. It is easy to see why. The story is a fascinating  and compelling one. Residents of the poorest community in Kingston, have barricaded the streets to protect a gang-leading-drug-baron from being extradited to the US. For a long time, the country’s prime minister, Bruce Golding,  refused to hand him over, but he has caved under diplomatic pressure from Obama’s administration. One might have thought that that was that, the game’s up. Not so. Local residents, in Tivoli Place are prepared to give their lives to prevent that from happening. Over their dead bodies indeed, 30 so far, according to the most recent reports.

In 2008, Amnesty International published a report entitled Let them kill each other – Public security in Jamaica’s inner cities.  

It examined violence, human rights violations, and the long-standing poverty and social exclusion faced by Jamaica’s citizens, and how those factors contribute to a perpetual public security crisis in the country. It illustrated how the citizens were caught between the criminal gangs who control their neighbourhoods and violent policing methods, meaning that people in inner-city communities live at constant risk of violence.  

The report also described how the Jamaican state not only provided little or no effective protection of their right to life and physical integrity, it also denied them access to services which would enable them to exercise their basic economic and social rights.  Abandoned by the state, and mistrusting of the security services, communities were driven into the arms of gang leaders. 

I quote from the report: “Some of these neighbourhoods have been neglected by the state for years, and many have effectively become the fiefdoms of gang leaders. Criminal gangs not only control communities through fear and violence, they also control access to what few services are available. Many are “garrison communities” where the ruling gangs have for years flourished under the patronage of one or other of the political parties.”

If only the government had paid more heed to Amnesty’s recommendations in 2008, perhaps we wouldn’t be witnessing these disturbing events unfolding in Jamaica today.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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