The Government has underscored its commitment to protecting the rights of all Jamaicans in the wake of mixed marks from the American State Department on its performance in that area in 2022.
In its report released on Monday, the US State Department chided the Jamaican Government for its performance in areas such as fatal shootings by members of the security forces; allegations of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment of individuals in police custody and in correctional facilities; corruption; and the treatment of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community.
But the report noted that there were no allegations of anti-Semitic acts in Jamaica in 2022; there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees; and the Government "did not restrict or disrupt access to the Internet or censor online content; and there were no credible reports that the Government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority".
Responding to the report, minister with responsibility for information Robert Morgan told the Jamaica Observer that the State Department has provided well-needed information on areas which the Government needs to look at as it moves to improve the lives of all Jamaicans.
"The Government of Jamaica continues to focus on the protection of human rights for all citizens. We are a developing country and we do have challenges, but the Government has continued to work to address these challenges to ensure that we protect the rights of every single citizen," said Morgan.
The State Department also pointed out that there were numerous reports during 2022 that members of the security forces committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, "and there were hundreds of complaints of abuse and wrongful harm".
The State Department report further noted that: "The total number of fatalities involving security forces, justifiable or otherwise, increased over prior years, with 131 reports as of December 13. The Government filed extortion and murder charges against several JCF officers following a killing in Kingston in July. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) investigated police for several fatal shootings, including shooting and killing an unarmed boy, age 16, in August.
"Comments in September by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Horace Chang suggested that security forces should not hesitate to use lethal force and that taxpayer-funded services, including ambulance services, should not be expended on suspected violent criminals."
But Morgan argued that fatal shootings by members of the security forces, the majority of which were found justified by INDECOM, reflected the reality of the state of the society, and the Government is implementing measures to address this.
"If you read the INDECOM report you will realise that in the majority of cases where police interact with criminals is where incidents happen that have been highlighted in various international media.
"The fact of the matter is that the police have to protect themselves. We have to protect the lives of the members of our security forces; and in a country where the majority of murders are perpetrated by gangsters and members of criminal organisations the police have a responsibility to protect the innocent.
"So we continue to work with INDECOM, we continue to work with the members of the security forces to reduce the incidents of aggressive actions between criminals and police officers, but the Government and the police have to work to protect the lives of the innocent citizens," added Morgan.
He argued that the report provides many areas of encouragement for the Government such as the freedom of information and the right to religious views.
"This Government is committed to allowing the media, religious groups, and so on to express themselves in freedom. This is a democratic country and we guard our freedoms jealously. We passed the Charter or Rights which cemented the rights of our of citizens, and this is something that this Government is proud of," said Morgan.