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Jamaica: a year on and no justice

A new Amnesty report is out today “Jamaica: A long road to justice? – Human Rights violations under the state of emergency to mark the one year anniversary of the sensational stand off between armed residents of Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica and security forces. Some of the residents there were trying to protect Christopher Coke, who the US were trying to get hold of on charges of drug and arms smuggling.  Barricades went up, and as the security forces searched district after district in an attempt to extract the wanted man. On such a beautiful sun-drenched set, where the very people of the community had decided to protect the local leader from the might of the US, the story could lay claim to a number of film-plot-esque features. The other element of film fakery came in the manner in which the curtain went down on the action. Once the siege was broken, the US took their man, and the world changed the channel. An interesting little distraction whilst the stand-off played out, but now it was over, no harm done, back to real life. Not so for some. Within two days, 74 people were killed and at least 54 were injured, including 28 members of the security forces.  During the two-month state of emergency that followed, more than 4,000 people, including children, were detained, most without charge. Amnesty interviewed dozens of people in the aftermath for its report, two people reportedly taken into custody remain unaccounted for.  Still sounding like a strap line in a trailer? Here is one personal and poignant story that didn’t make the cut. Sheldon Gary Davis, aged 29, was killed by the security forces on Sunday, 30 May 2010 in Denham Town, West Kingston, after he had been taken into custody to be “checked out”.

Sheldon’s mother, Paulette Wellington, told Amnesty International:

“It happened about a week after everything was finished in Tivoli. Sheldon and I were at home, when soldiers knocked our door. It was about 10am. They said that they were just checking. They searched the house. When they saw Sheldon, they asked for his ID and questioned why he was walking with a limp. They said: ‘That limp may be from a gunshot wound’, but I explained them that he was unable to bend his foot since the age of six after a sickness and that he had been operated several times. They took him out. They said they wanted to check him out.

“From the window I saw that the police forced him in a jeep.  “In the afternoon, as Sheldon had still not come back, I started looking for him. I went to seven different police stations but nobody had seen him. On Monday, I went again. I took a photo of him with me, showing it to people, trying to find him. Nothing. On Tuesday, the same. Every day I started searching for him since the morning, as soon as I got up. I was unable to eat. I just wanted to know where he was.

“On Wednesday, in Kingston Mall, a policewoman checked in a book and told me that he was dead. She told me to go to the Blood Bank because it was there that he had been killed.

“I went there on Thursday morning… Finally [a police officer] told me that they killed him there because he was trying to take a soldier’s gun.

“In those days, the police was using the Blood Bank to hold people. When I went there, some young men told me that they witnessed Sheldon’s killing. The police put him under a mango tree and shot him. A police officer said, ‘Young man, aren’t you dead yet?’ He shot him again. These witnesses are too afraid to give statements. The autopsy was done about a month after. It showed that he had been shot twice, once in the foot and once in the abdomen.

I buried him on 4 July, on the day of my birthday. Sheldon was helping me a lot. Now I am alone, in dire financial straits and I don’t know how to pay for my daughter’s school fees.” Find out more about the report’s findings and its recommendations, here.

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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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