Wednesday, August 20, 2014, Kingston, Jamaica
. JFJ welcomes the Prime Minister’s intervention in the matter of Mario Deane’s treatment while in police custody and his subsequent death but would have preferred if it had been more timely and made in a national forum rather than on a partisan, political platform.JFJ’s welcome of the Prime Minister’s comments is on two counts. First, she has underlined an important principle: a person’s rights do not disappear because he or she violates a law and ends up in custody. Persons in the custody of the state remain human beings and must be so treated.Secondly, the special high level committee set up to ensure appropriate policies are finally put in place to deal with detention in police custody and to prevent another death like Mario Deane’s could be a good step. JFJ calls on the committee to focus on tackling the deep-seated, decades-old ATTITUDE of the police to poor people.It is the negative attitude to the poor that gives rise to the systemic abuse. Last year, according to an INDECOM report, ten persons died in police custody, seven of the ten in just two months, September and October.
The committee must address actions to ensure there is close monitoring of police conduct and consistent and speedy implementation of sanctions when it falls down. The committee must make public the new mechanism it will install. Rules and regulations notwithstanding, there is ample evidence that the police cannot be trusted to self-correct.
Successive governments also bear culpability. Not one of them can escape accountability for the long history of human rights abuses by members of the JCF, the high levels of extra-judicial killings of citizens and the inhumane conditions of detention. The police make those conditions worse by their treatment of the vulnerable poor, who are often uninformed about their rights.
Jamaicans for Justice urges the Prime Minister and the Special Committee to truly lead the way forward to end the systemic abuse.