Another International Day passed without much comment from anybody on the island. I should have posted this last Friday, March 15, which was the actual date of International Day Against Police Brutality. It raises awareness of an issue that persists (and in many places is actually worsening) in developing and developed countries.
According to the Independent Commission of Investigations‘ (INDECOM) website, as of today’s date, eighteen Jamaicans have died in fatal shooting incidents with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) this year (not all are yet listed in their regular reports). Eight Jamaicans have died this month. 92 police officers are in pending court cases. It has just started investigating the fatal shooting of Nevada Dennis, on March 19 in Gutters, St. Catherine.
Police Commissioner Antony Anderson spoke about this issue just a few days ago, on the occasion of the handover of a new booklet for police recruits, Human Rights in Law Enforcement. “We have to protect the rights even of people who are trying to deny other people their rights,” he observed.
Last year I wrote for Global Voices about three brave women from Jamaica, the United States and Brazil in a series of articles related to an Amnesty International campaign in collaboration with Jamaicans for Justice, A Journey for Justice in the Americas.
Let us remain vigilant. Let us have empathy for the families, who are still seeking justice.
Here is a release last week from Jamaicans for Justice. I have added links to the cases mentioned.
FAMILIES OF VICTIMS OF POLICE BRUTALITY CALL FOR JUSTICE
15 March 2019
On March 15, 2019, people all over the world will commemorate International Day Against Police Brutality, which is designated as a day of solidarity against police brutality and undue violence by the police forces.
With an approximated 137 security forces related fatalities in 2018 and 11 since the beginning of 2019, JFJ remains concerned about the use of force by the police and the disastrous effects that extrajudicial killings have on the lives of the families that are left behind.
FAMILY SUPPORT NETWORK
Jamaicans for Justice provides psychosocial and legal support to the network of family members of persons who have been killed by police. Many of these families are still engaged in legal battles against members of the police force and the Attorney General, seeking justice for the wrongful killing of their loved ones. They will commemorate the Day Against Police Brutality by coming together in solidarity, to remember their loved ones and to continue to call for justice and demand that members of the security forces are held accountable.
This network includes Monica Williams, whose 15-year-old son Jason Smith was killed by police in July 2002 while on his way from a shop. The policemen who were charged with Jason’s murder were tried and freed in 2005. However, Monica has pursued compensation for damages for the loss of Jason’s life and has been successful. Unfortunately, she has yet to receive the promised compensation and the matter remains unfinished while quantum is decided in the courts. She has been waiting for justice for almost 17 years.
We continue to support Mercia Fraser, whose son Mario Deane died on Independence Day in 2014 after succumbing to injuries he received from being brutally beaten while in a police lockup in Montego Bay for possession of ganja. Mercia has continued her fight to see that the police officers who were on duty at the time when Mario was beaten will be brought to justice. They have subsequently been charged with manslaughter, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office, but Mercia has been deliberately excluded from the trial and is finding it difficult to follow through in her pursuit of justice for her son.
1 INDECOM, 2018 – Security Forces Related Fatalities – https://www.indecom.gov.jm/report/2018-security- forces-related-fatalities
2 INDECOM, 2019 – Security Forces Related Fatalities – https://www.indecom.gov.jm/report/2019-security- forces-related-fatalities
The network also includes Sandra Lintonwhose 19-year-old son Renardo Wilson was killed by police in 2010. The INDECOM report for Renardo was only completed in 2018 and an inquest at the Special Coroners Court has yet to begin.
FAMILIES CALL FOR JUSTICE
Heartened by the recent trial of members of the “Police Death Squad” and the conviction of Constable Collis Brown for three counts of murder, wounding with intent and conspiracy to commit murder, members of this support network of families are calling on the government to ensure that police are held accountable for extrajudicial killings and that the cases of these members of the security forces are transparent and undertaken with minimal delays.
“Something must change! Police have been killing innocent people without consequences for too long. Many of us have been waiting for justice for years, some of us for over 15 years and it feels like we are waiting in vain. We are calling on the government to hold public meetings and consult with the people so they can fast-track the Police Services Act so that they can shake up the police force. Enough is enough!” – Monica Williams
These families are pleading with the government to end impunity for unlawful killings by police, as they continue to advocate for their loved ones and pursue justice through the courts.