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Jamaica

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

While there were no reports that the government or its agents committed politically motivated killings, there were reports that government security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) statistics indicated that 92 persons were killed by government security forces through October, an approximately 10 percent increase over the same period in 2015.

Narcotics traffickers, criminal networks, and gangs created a widespread culture of criminality and contributed to the country’s very high homicide rate.

On April 13, INDECOM arrested and charged two police officers for unlawfully killing a man in Westmoreland Parish.

A government-established commission completed its inquiry and in June released its final report into the activities of the security forces during the 2010 Tivoli Gardens security operation that left at least 73 civilians and one security force member dead. The report recommended the government provide an apology, facilitate reparations, and implement police reform. The report provided numerous other recommendations aimed at holding security forces accountable and preventing the “large-scale loss of lives during the operations of the security forces.” The government established on September 13 a cabinet-level committee to review the recommendations and determine appropriate steps for implementation. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) removed three senior leaders from positions of responsibility because of the commission’s report.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although the constitution prohibits torture, there is no legal definition of it. INDECOM arrested on July 4 and charged on July 13 the five members of the JCF Mobile Reserve Division involved in the shooting injury of a student on June 30. INDECOM arrested Senior Superintendent Anthony Castelle and District Constable Rohan McIntosh of the JCF in Montego Bay on May 19 for unlawful wounding. Reports of physical abuse of individuals in custody by security personnel continued, but there were fewer reports compared with the previous year, according to the country’s Department of Correctional Services. INDECOM investigated all reports of abuse by prison officials. The parliament-commissioned Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) investigates reports of abuse and other rights violations committed against juvenile offenders housed in remand and correctional facilities operated by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS). OCA investigations can lead to proceedings against the officials or the DCS.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Dilapidated buildings, inconsistent health care, and overcrowding in some facilities presented challenges to the prison and detention center systems. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Jamaicans for Justice reported that, because each prisoner is initially received at one of two high-security institutions, overcrowding at high-security facilities remained a significant problem, while there was vacant capacity at low- and medium-security remand centers.

Physical Conditions: Overcrowding and difficult conditions remained in some facilities. Cells in some facilities had little natural light, inadequate artificial light, subpar bathroom and toilet facilities, and limited ventilation. Female prisoners generally were provided better conditions than male inmates.

At the maximum security St. Catherine Adult Correctional Institution, inmates remained in their cells from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. with a slop bucket to use but no other means to address their hygienic needs. Bedbugs were a problem.

Lock-up cells were crowded, with up to 11 persons per cell. Detainees claimed authorities allocated cellmates 15 minutes two or three times a day to bathe, use the bathroom, and fill water bottles.

Medical care was limited. The system employed three full-time and several part-time doctors, one full-time nurse, and one dentist, and accessed the public medical system when necessary. Four part-time psychiatrists cared for at least 225 inmates diagnosed as having mental disabilities in 11 facilities across the island. Prisoners could not obtain dentures, but prisons accommodated the dietary needs of those with dental impairments.

Administration: There was no specific prison ombudsman. Official complaints and investigations were infrequent. Independent authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The OCA investigated complaints concerning children in conflict with the law. Children detained in juvenile correctional or remand facilities lodged complaints directly with the OCA. The OCA accepted complaints on behalf of children from the independent, civilian-constituted Juvenile Boards of Visitors appointed for each juvenile facility. Despite the OCA’s legal mandate to investigate and address allegations of child rights abuse, the DCS at times resisted OCA authority, resulting in delayed investigations.

Independent Monitoring: The government allowed private groups, voluntary and religious organizations, local and international human rights organizations, and media to visit prisons and monitor prison conditions, and such visits took place during the year. Justices of the peace and representatives from the Police Civilian Oversight Authority visited police-run lock-ups regularly.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, although it permits the arrest of persons “reasonably suspected” of having committed a crime. Security forces occasionally performed “cordon and search” operations and enforced curfews, during which they detained persons and took them into custody. Security forces may legally hold a suspect for 48 hours before the individual must be charged or released.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The JCF has primary responsibility for internal security. The Jamaica Defense Force (JDF), including the Coast Guard, has responsibility for national defense, maritime narcotics interdiction, and JCF support. The JCF often conducted joint operations with the support of the JDF in particular high-crime areas. The Ministry of National Security exercises the prime minister’s authority for oversight of the JCF and JDF. The JCF maintained divisions for community policing, special response, intelligence gathering, and internal affairs. The Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency has responsibility for migration. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the JCF and JDF. The government made limited efforts to investigate and punish abuse and corruption in general.

INDECOM investigates actions by members of the security forces and other agents of the state that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of the rights of persons and, when appropriate, forwards cases to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) for prosecution.

Lengthy trials with numerous delays continued to be a systemic problem (not confined to cases involving police officers). As of October 14, the DPP and INDECOM had 100 active cases of criminal charges against 93 government security officials for their alleged involvement in unlawful killings or other abuses. On July 1, a seven-member jury found JCF Constable Wayne Hamil guilty of wounding with intent for the unlawful shooting of a civilian in Hanover in 2014.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Police officers may arrest without warrant where a felony, treason, or breach of the peace is committed or attempted in the officer’s presence. Upon arrest the officer is required to tell a suspect in clear language the offense(s) for which the individual has been arrested. Any officer may execute any warrant lawfully issued by a judge or justice of the peace for the apprehension of a person charged with any offense, without being in possession of the warrant. The officer must produce the warrant on demand of the suspect as soon as practical after the arrest. The decision to charge or release must be resolved within 48 hours, although a judge or justice of the peace may extend the period of custody.

The constitution provides for legal assistance if someone does not have sufficient means to pay for legal representation and provides that a civil organization may initiate an application on behalf of a detainee or a person with a mental disability. If a detainee requests access to counsel, the law requires police to contact duty counsel (a private attorney who volunteers to represent detainees at police stations and until cases go to trial) under the Legal Aid Program. There was a functioning bail system. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to family members.

The law requires justices of the peace and judges to inquire at least once a week into the welfare of each person listed by the JCF as detained.

Pretrial Detention: Police administered lock-ups, which lack a legal or regulatory framework, according to Jamaicans for Justice. Lock-ups are intended for short-term detentions of 48 hours or less, but often detainees were held in these facilities without charge for longer periods.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained are entitled to, but have a very limited capacity to, challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights.

The government cooperates with the International Organization for Migration, UN Children’s Fund, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The constitution provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Although the government does not have a system or regulatory framework for processing and providing protection to refugees, it handles refugee and asylum cases administratively. The government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups and other international bodies generally operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Public Defender investigates abuses of constitutional rights and engages with clients and the government in a process to seek remediation from the government, but the office is not authorized to appear in court. The OCA is another independent government body that provides services for children when government authorities or others allegedly violate their rights. The OCA has the authority in its own right to sue the government on behalf of any child.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment. The law criminalizes spousal rape only under the following conditions: when spouses have separated or begun proceedings to dissolve the marriage; when the husband is under a court order not to molest or cohabit with his wife; or when the husband knows he suffers from a sexually transmitted infection. The law criminalizes sexual relations by an adult with a child–male or female–under the age of 16 and provides for penalties ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. The JCF reported 374 rapes through October 9, approximately a 19 percent decrease from the same period in 2015. The government’s 2015 Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica indicated that from January to September 2015, hospital emergency rooms received 948 cases of sexual assault, which was 13 percent of total emergency room visits.

The JCF Center for Investigation of Sexual Offenses and Child Abuse (CISOCA) comprised a multidisciplinary team, which included police officers, social workers, and counselors from the Victim Support Unit. CISOCA handled sex crimes and offered integrated services, including providing legal information. CISOCA officers received tailored training on sexual offense investigations.

The law prohibits domestic violence and provides remedies, including restraining orders and other noncustodial sentencing, but violence against women continued to be a severe problem and studies reported that domestic violence was widespread. Breaching a restraining order is punishable by a fine of up to 10,000 JMD ($78) and six months’ imprisonment. The NGO Woman Inc. reported that women frequently complained that police failed to treat domestic violence as a crime and take the required reports. The Ministry of Justice’s Victim Support Unit, and NGOs including Woman Inc., Dispute Resolution Foundation, and Women’s Center of Jamaica Foundation, as well as various faith-based institutions, offered counseling and other services countrywide. NGOs expressed concern that resources were insufficient for police investigations of gender-based violence and for counseling and shelter for victims.

Sexual Harassment: No legislation addresses sexual harassment, and no legal remedy exists for victims of sexual harassment. According to reports, authorities may use the Offenses against the Person Act in cases of physical sexual harassment and, under labor law, employers may be held liable for not providing a safe workspace, although through November 17 no charges were filed using either mechanism.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Access to information on modern contraception and skilled health attendance during pregnancy and at delivery was widely available. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that 68 percent of women ages 15-49 use a modern contraceptive method, while 10 percent of women have an unmet need for family planning. Women have access to emergency health care, including for the management of consequences arising from abortions; however, the standard of care varied widely, especially in rural communities.

According to UNFPA estimates, 99 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel. The major challenges to reducing maternal deaths in the country were the prevalence of unsafe abortions, inadequate public education, early pregnancy, violence, and HIV/AIDS.

Discrimination: Although the law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including equal pay for equal work, women suffered from discrimination in the workplace and often earned less than men (see section 7.d.). Domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Women sought jobs and served in almost every occupation in both the public and private sectors.

Children

Birth Registration: Every person born in the country after August 5, 1962, is entitled to citizenship. Persons outside the country born to or adopted by one or more Jamaican parents, as well as those married to Jamaican spouses, are entitled to citizenship. There is universal birth registration, either in the hospital at the time of birth or at a local registrar’s office if the child is not born in a hospital.

Child Abuse: Child abuse, including sexual abuse, was substantial and widespread. NGOs reported that gang leaders, sometimes including fathers, initiated sex with young girls as a “right,” and missing children often were fleeing violent situations and sexual abuse. During the year the JCF implemented a “Child Interaction Policy.” The Office of Children’s Registry (OCR) receives, records, processes, and stores data relating to the mistreatment and abuse of children. The law requires anyone who knows of or suspects child abuse to make a report to the OCR, with a penalty of up to 500,000 JMD ($3,900) and/or six months’ imprisonment for failure to do so.

The Child Development Agency (CDA) under the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information provides housing and day-to-day care for orphans, destitute children, and those with unsuitable parents, and administers the foster care and adoption programs.

The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) has broad responsibilities for reviewing laws, policies, practices, and government services affecting children, as well as providing legal services to protect the best interests of children. The OCA has an investigative function that gives it concurrent jurisdiction with the police whenever a child is the victim or complainant. The OCA also has the power to investigate government agencies and officials and to institute legal proceedings against agents of government. Through September the OCA received 253 complaints directly from individuals and an additional 350 referrals from the OCR. It conducted preliminary investigations in some cases and referred other cases to appropriate government institutions.

Corporal punishment is illegal in early childhood centers and for all children in state care, but it remained legal elsewhere, including in schools.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, but children may marry at 16 with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual intercourse with a person less than 16 years old, the minimum age for consensual sex. Sexual relations by an adult with a child under the age of 16 is punishable by up to life imprisonment. The law provides for a Sex Offenders Registry, which the Department of Corrections administers and police enforce. In 2015 the number of cases of persons reported to police for sexual intercourse with a minor was 769, a 13 percent decrease from the prior year. In 2016 through October 9, there were 306 reported cases.

The law criminalizes the commercial sexual exploitation of children and applies to the protection, possession, importation, exportation, and distribution of child pornography. It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 JMD ($3,900). There were reports of children being involved in commercial sexual exploitation. The OCA investigated sex crimes when the victim was below 18 years of age. Depending on the case, the complaint was lodged directly with the OCA or referred to the OCA from the Office of Children’s Registry for investigation.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

Approximately 500 persons in the country practiced Judaism. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

While the law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, it does not mandate accessibility standards. The 2014 Disabilities Act, passed by parliament but still not signed into law, would provide for the “full and effective participation and inclusion in the society for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others” and establish a disabilities rights tribunal to hear complaints. Persons with disabilities continued to encounter discrimination in employment and access to schools, usually due to the state of the infrastructure, which limited access to buildings and provided few special facilities.

Limitations in access to education were particularly pronounced at the primary school level, due to insufficient access to facilities for persons with disabilities. There was also a lack of suitably trained faculty to care for and instruct students with disabilities. There were fewer reports of problems in secondary schools. Tertiary institutions, including community colleges, increasingly drafted policies to promote full inclusion of persons with disabilities. Health care reportedly was universally available.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) has responsibility for the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities. The council distributes economic empowerment grants of up to $50,000 JMD ($420) to persons with disabilities to provide assistive aids and to help them develop small businesses. The ministry also has responsibility for the Early Stimulation Project, an education program for children with disabilities, and for the Abilities Foundation, a vocational program for older persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Maroons–descendants of slaves who escaped to the mountainous interior in the 17th and 18th centuries–considered themselves a group apart and maintained some cultural traditions distinct from those of the larger society. While formal education was not available within Maroon communities beyond the junior high school level, Maroons were able to attend high school in nearby communities.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits “acts of gross indecency” (generally interpreted as any kind of physical intimacy) between persons of the same sex, in public or in private, and provides a penalty of two years in prison for the offense. There is also an “antibuggery” law that criminalizes consensual and nonconsensual anal intercourse, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. During the year the law was enforced only in cases of sexual assault and child molestation and was not used to prosecute consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men. Homophobia was widespread in the country.

The NGO J-FLAG reported that through June there were 53 incidents of physical and verbal assault against 35 LGBTI persons, including 24 cases of physical assault, 11 of verbal assault, 12 involving threats and intimidation, one case of arson, and one case of harassment by a police officer. The JCF reports that most incidents involving the LGBTI population are not reported to police.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The most recent HIV and AIDS legal environment assessment for the country (2013) revealed a dramatic reduction of HIV prevalence among sex workers and that the country was close to eliminating the transmission of HIV and AIDS between mother and child. The country’s National HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy prohibits HIV-related discrimination in the workplace. Nevertheless, criminalization of private, consensual same-sex acts, sex work, and drug use continued to foster stigma and discrimination against the most vulnerable populations and impede their access to health information and services.

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