Jamaica: Yet more injustice when police shoot to kill

Along with the Braeton Seven, the killing of Patrick Genius is one of the most compelling cases of possible unlawful killing by members of the Jamaican Constabulary Force known to Amnesty International. Genius was killed by police officers in Kingston, Jamaica on 13 December 1999. Eye witnesses to the killing claimed that he was shot with his hands up in the air after being detained by police officers travelling in an unmarked car.

There are numerous reasons to challenge the police account of the killing of Patrick Genius:

  • How did he manage to keep running when he had been shot in both legs?
  • How did he receive two gunshot wounds to the back of the head, when the first would have killed him and caused him to fall to the ground?
  • Why did the bullets in Genius' head have a downward trajectory when the officers who shot him claim to have thrown themselves to the floor (giving their fire an upward trajectory) to avoid his gunfire?

Amnesty International said: 'This is a heavy blow against police accountability. There is compelling evidence that the police executed Patrick Genius. Yet the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has refused to prosecute the officers involved.

'Police officers continue to kill unlawfully in Jamaica. The authorities have consistently failed to prosecute those guilty. By not ordering the DPP to review or explain his decision, the Jamaican Supreme Court has allowed this to continue.'

On 2 May 2003, the Jamaican Supreme Court ruled that the Director of Public Prosecutions did not have to give reasons for his decision not to charge the officers responsible for the death of Patrick Genius. It did not require him to review his decision. It also ruled that the body of Patrick Genius did not need to be exhumed to allow for all the bullets to be removed and subjected to forensic tests.

The mother of Patrick Genius, Leonie Marshall, had petitioned the Court for judicial review of the DPP's lack of action in the case of her son's death.

Amnesty International said: 'It is appalling that there is no justice for the relatives of Patrick Genius. The system has failed. Many citizens continue to lose their lives at the hands of the Jamaican Constabulary Force but where do their families go for justice when the system of investigation and accountability is so inadequate? They have asked the courts to intervene and support their rights. Tragically, the courts have preferred to support the status quo of inaction.'

Once again, Jamaica appears to be in breach of its obligations under international laws and standards governing the investigation of potential extrajudicial executions by state agents.

Amnesty International seriously questions the assertion by the DPP that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute the officers involved in Genius' death. One jury, in the Coroner's Court, has already found that the police should be held criminally liable for the killing. There is no reason to believe that a second jury would not reach the same conclusion when presented with the facts in the case.

Amnesty International said: 'Instead of presenting the information to a jury, the DPP appears to have acted as the defence and the jury in deciding that the officers could not be found guilty. This is clearly beyond his role and responsibilities. The Jamaican Supreme Court should have corrected this abuse.'

Background

Jamaica suffers from an appalling high level of police killings. In 2002, the police killed 133 people in a population of only 2.6 million. While some of the killings are the legitimate use of lethal force, there is strong evidence that many amounted to extrajudicial executions.

However, the prosecution of police officers on charges relating to unlawful killings is almost unheard of. Despite numerous assurances from the Government and the Director of Public Prosecutions that there is no immunity for police officers implicated in unlawful killings, the authorities' have failed to provide any details of officers actually tried, let alone convicted. The last conviction of unlawful killing by a police officer known to Amnesty International was in 1999.

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