Reported Beatings of Men in Police Custody – JFJ Calls For Urgent Protective Measures

We call upon the authorities to immediately institute protective measures

Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has received credible reports from family members of persons detained at Central Police Station of the serious physical abuse of two detainees while in police custody. We demand urgent action by the relevant authorities to address threats to their life, safety, and fundamental human rights. We call upon the authorities to immediately institute protective measures, conduct investigations into the reports of beatings, and provide access to proper medical care.

Reported abuse at the Central Police Station

According to informants, between September 19 and 23, the detainees were allegedly beaten by police officers during an attempted transportation to a scheduled court appearance – in which some difficulties arose. The beating resulted in serious injuries, leaving signs of physical trauma to the face, chest, and stomach. One of the detainees reportedly sustained very severe injuries that have compromised his health. We are advised by multiple sources that based on the severity of their injuries, they were not brought to court as scheduled.

We are advised by that despite continued requests for proper medical attention, one detainee reportedly continues to experience debilitating health conditions that suggest worsening injuries and potentially threatening medical complications, include continued physical weakness resulting in collapse on at least one occasion, severe contusions and swelling, unrelenting chest and stomach pains, and emotional and mental trauma.  These reports have potentially adverse long-term impacts for detainees that must be addressed. In several cases of beatings in detention in Jamaica, injuries have resulted in the death of detainees. There exists at this point a well-established risk of irreparable harm to life, physical wellbeing and health in these instances which the authorities are duty-bound to meaningfully address without delay.

However, based on reports, this has not occurred. Subsequent to the beating, he was reportedly brought to a health centre – which is not a hospital capable of providing emergency care – but did not receive proper medical care. He continues to fears for his declining health, and exhibits signs of severe distress and emotional trauma.

Duty of care

These reports, if determined to be true, raise serious human rights concerns, including possible violations of the right to bodily and physical integrity, the protection from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the right to health, all of which are protected under national and international law. JFJ is deeply disturbed by these reports that fit a pattern of reported abuse and neglect in detention settings we have encountered over the past decade in our work. We remain concerned that so many Jamaicans face great risk of human rights violations while in the care of the State.

All persons, regardless of criminal accusation or negative public sentiment against them, have fundamental rights which the state is legally mandated to protect – a hallmark of any civilized society built on the rule of law. People detained by the police, pending trial, do not lose their rights because they are detained. Instead, the police maintain a duty of care that requires that safeguards be established to protect them.

Call to action

JFJ urgently calls upon the relevant authorities to take decisive action, consistent with their obligations under law, to address these reports. We call on the Central Police and the High Command of the JCF to:

  • Immediately provide access to proper medical care at a hospital or other facility capable of providing emergency and inpatient treatment, not a health centre that lacks these capabilities.
  • Conduct an internal probe into the reports of beatings by police officers and fully cooperate with any investigations by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and other oversight bodies by taking the necessary administrative steps such as properly recording any signs of physical abuse, preventing collusion to frustrate fact-finding, securing station records that indicate which officers may have been involved, and preventing intimidation of potential witnesses – be they police or civilian.
  • Ensure full access to counsel and family contact, consistent with the law and JCF policies
  • Enforce the Administration Policy for Persons Deprived of Liberty developed after the 2014 fatal beating of Mario Deane in police custody, and all other laws and government policies.

Jamaica continues to suffer intractable human rights challenges with detention due to the weak legislative regulation of police lockups, and their chronic misuse as long-term pre-trial remand despite their intended design as short-term holding areas – the management of which police are ill-equipped and under-resourced to do. In this situation, everyone loses: resources and personnel better dedicated to actual policing remain inefficiently deployed, and the public remains at extreme risk of harm if ever detained in police custody. These present reports intensify the need to implement rights-based reforms to detention such as transitioning pre-trial detention to remand centres, a task for which those facilities are purpose-built.