US Coast Guard denies ill-treatment of Jamaican fishermen

Monday, June 24, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has denied claims that it ill-treated five Jamaican fishermen who were apprehended In Haitian waters in 2017.

The USCG denied the allegations made by the fishermen and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that they were ill-treated between mid-September and mid-October, 2017 after their Go Fast Vessel (GFV), Josette, was intercepted.

The Jamaican authorities had approved the detention of the men under the so-called Shiprider Agreement between Caribbean states and the US, on the basis that the Coast Guard had recovered over 600 pounds of ganja (marijuana), which had been jettisoned by the fishermen during the interdiction.

“The Coast Guard complies with both international and U.S. domestic law, and works closely with our Department of Justice and Department of State colleagues to ensure compliance.All suspects are cared for humanely while preserving the security of both the crew and suspects,” the USCG responded to questions raised by the local media since last week.

The Coast Guard explained that they were unable to transfer the detainees ashore in Puerto Rico, given the conditions there following Hurricane Maria, and for the safety of the detainees.

In mid-October 2017, the five detainees were transferred into the custody of Homeland Security Investigations agents in Port Everglades, Florida.In January 2018, each of the crew members pled guilty to making a false official statement to a law enforcement officer and they were sentenced to ten months' imprisonment. They were eventually deported to Jamaica last year.

However, the Jamaican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade says it has no evidence of the fishermen making any contact with its consular services in the United States while they were detained, or with the ministry since their return last year.

The US Coast Guard insisted that it complies with both international and US domestic law, and works closely with the Department of Justice and Department of State to ensure compliance.

“All suspects are cared for humanely while preserving the security of both the crew and suspects,” the USCG said.

The Coast Guard added that it works diligently with the Department of Justice, US law enforcement agencies and partner nations to transfer suspects ashore in a timely manner for further investigation and prosecution.

“The constitutionality of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA) and the Drug Trafficking Vessel Interdiction Act (DTVIA), and the extent to which those same acts conform with international law (including customary international law and the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances), have been repeatedly litigated and upheld by the US federal courts,” the USCG also noted.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade will host a press conference in Kingston tomorrow morning, at which it is expected to update the press on the issue.

Balford Henry


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