JFJ Press Release: JFJ Responds to Minister Hanna’s Statements on JFJ’s Advocacy Approaches

JFJ Responds to Minister Hanna’s Statements on JFJ’s Advocacy Approaches

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 – Kingston, Jamaica – Minister of Youth Lisa Hanna’s recent press release on Jamaicans for Justice’s (JFJ’s) advocacy on children at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and overall advocacy on the rights of children contains misleading inaccuracies that require clarification.

JFJ’s Advocacy at the IACHR
JFJ’s advocacy includes in-depth research, public awareness, consultation and the reporting of abuses. Reports on children to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) are among the most effective means of securing child rights and of holding Minister Hanna’s administration accountable. Further, reports to IACHR and United Nations’ Committees are necessary to compel the government to engage in moderate initiatives that enable vulnerable and marginalized youth to “survive and develop healthily,” as required under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In 2013 JFJ petitioned the IACHR on behalf of girls in prisons facing human rights abuses. The IACHR, recognizing the harm to these children, granted Precautionary Measures on behalf of the girls, and instructed our government to take immediate action to end the patent violation of the rights of said girls in state custody. In March 2014 JFJ, the GOJ and the IACHR had a working meeting to follow-up on the situation of this vulnerable group. At that meeting both JFJ and the GOJ agreed to meet to further discuss the issues. Since then, JFJ has written to the Minister with responsibility for the population in the Precautionary Measures, Peter Bunting, to request this meeting and to date Minister Bunting has not responded. Despite the joint commitment to meet, the GOJ has not sought to engage with JFJ in any way since the IACHR instruction.

JFJ meetings with government representatives on child rights
Over the past two years JFJ has met with Minister Hanna twice, the Office of the Children’s Advocate, the Advisory Board of the Child Development Agency, the Office of the Children’s Registry, the Department of Correctional Services, the Minister of Justice and officials from the CDA to find meaningful solutions to the desperate state of child-care. We continue to engage with the government on these issues.

JFJ’s Initiatives to Improve Child Welfare
Minister Hanna’s statement that JFJ’s activism is “the issuing of press releases and this is not the way to achieve meaningful reform,” mischaracterizes JFJ’s advocacy strategies which include substantial collaborations with the Minister’s own Ministry of Youth and with children’s homes.

Since October last year JFJ developed and conducted an intervention and education program within six children’s homes, spanning 75 two-hour workshops, that exposed over 150 wards of the state to important health, human rights and development content that will enable them to become well-rounded citizens. At the Ministry of Youth’s request earlier this month, JFJ provided a comprehensive submission on improving the Adoption Act. JFJ’s recommendations include a new structure to replace the Adoption Board, a revised framework for assessing applications, internal regulations to ensure proper governance, and an implementation and monitoring framework to disclose material and human resources assigned to various activities.

Similarly, JFJ provided recommendations on the Child Care and Protection Act. To our regret, this reform process is delayed and Minister Hanna neither provided a timeline nor update for its completion.

For the record, JFJ’s has been involved in child rights advocacy over many years. Namely:
1. JFJ was involved in drafting the original Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA).
2. JFJ has provided a written contribution to the current review of the CCPA.
3. JFJ has researched child rights issues and published the findings to help inform a data-driven public debate.
4. JFJ in consultation with national stakeholders undertook the preparation of a lengthy NGO report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Jamaica.
5. JFJ has staged public forums that have included the Commissioner of Corrections, the Children’s Advocate and other experts to help drive collaboration and information sharing in the child care sector.
6. JFJ engaged with overseas specialists to provide possible alternate child justice models that have been successful in the USA. JFJ flew down one such expert and facilitated a presentation with the DCS and the Chief Justice on an alternative rehabilitation and juvenile justice model.
7. JFJ has continuously provided legal services free of cost to families who have come to us regarding the plight of their children in prisons or state facilities.

JFJ’s commitment on collaborations with the Ministry of Youth and other government agencies remains steadfast. JFJ remains committed to advocating on and supporting initiatives that advance human rights including child rights.