In 2005, Jamaica had the highest recorded per-capita murder rate in the world. In fact, the death rate from violence in Jamaica is higher than in many wars: The standard international definition of a war or high-intensity conflict is violence characterized by fatality rates of over 1,000/year; in Jamaica, 1,574 people were murdered in 2007. A growing phenomenon is that of “reprisal killings.”
Jamaica slums locked in violence, report says
Inner cities at mercy of gangs and corrupt police
State failing to protect poor, says Amnesty
* Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
* The Guardian, Tuesday 1 April 2008
Jamaica has abandoned its ghettoes to violent crime and shocking levels of police brutality, leaving communities terrorised and bereft of hope, according to a report.
Armed gangs and corrupt police units have turned inner cities into arenas of mayhem and impunity, with killings taking place in daylight, Amnesty International says in a report published today.
The investigation, Let Them Kill Each Other, depicts a Hobbesian world where many slum-dwellers are condemned to a life that is poor, brutish and short. "There is a public security crisis in Jamaica and the state is failing to effectively provide human security to its population, especially to those most vulnerable to crime and violence, namely people living in poverty in inner city communities."
The Caribbean island's high crime rate has long been recognised. An annual murder rate of around 1,500 in a population of 2.7 million puts Jamaica on a par with South Africa and Colombia as among the world's most violent countries. Because the violence is largely confined to slums and seldom threatens foreigners on resorts and beaches Jamaica has been able to turn itself into a tourist magnet.
According to Amnesty, the scale and nature of what is happening in the ghettoes is horrific. "This is not a sudden crisis, but follows a steady increase in violent crime over recent years. Far from protecting people from violent crime the Jamaica Constabulary Force is contributing to the escalation of violence. Jamaica has one of the highest rates of police killings in the Americas."
The 55-page report includes testimony from people who claim police killed their relatives. Philbert Thomas, a Kingston resident, said his 19-year-old son Andre, wounded in the leg and hand, was taken away in a police vehicle. "When I got to public hospital, Andre was dead. The doctor told me he had wounds all over his body: in his leg, on his belly, in the centre of his stomach and one in his back. When I left him he only had two wounds. I know they murdered him."
Amnesty accused the political establishment of dividing slums into "garrisons" where armed gangs delivered votes in exchange for near-impunity. Prejudice among public officials stigmatised people in slums as worthless and deserving of their fate, it said. Civic society organisations, some set up by former criminals, have improved security in some areas. Former Scotland Yard detectives who have joined the Jamaica force claim it is becoming more professional and accountable.
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