Right Steps & Poui Trees


Asma Jahangir, Renowned Human Rights Defender, Dies: Her Visit To & Report On Jamaica In 2003

Asma JahangirI was saddened to learn on Sunday of the sudden death of Asma Jahangir, the remarkable Pakistani lawyer and human rights advocate, who died of a heart attack at the age of 66. Ms Jahangir was a courageous human rights defender, who had great impact within her own country, as well as internationally in a number of capacities and on a number of issues.

A United Nations release titled “World loses a ‘human rights giant,’ says UN chief on death of rights expert Asma Jahangir” spoke about her work and included comments from the Secretary General’s statement on Sunday:

“We have lost a human rights giant,” said Mr. Guterres in a statement.

“Asma was brilliant, deeply principled, courageous and kind […] She will not be forgotten,” he added, expressing his condolences to Ms. Jahangir’s family, friends and colleagues, including in the UN and civil society.

I had the privilege of meeting Ms Jahangir when she visited Jamaica in 2003, for a country visit in her capacity of then United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. I sat with a number of clients of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) – family members of people who had been killed by the police – as they individually told her about the death of their loved ones. At times I helped with translation, when Ms Jahangir wasn’t clear what was being said in patois.

I was struck by the sensitivity, compassion and respect shown towards the family members by Ms Jahangir during her interviews, as they recounted their experiences, often in traumatic detail. Hers was an attitude that was often not shown to them by local officials, as they navigated the long and frustrating search for justice for their relatives.

On the last day of her visit, February 27, 2003, Ms Jahangir held a press conference at the Ministry of Justice to give some initial remarks regarding her observations. Asma Jahangir - Gleaner 28-2-2003 pA1

The Gleaner report of the press conference included the following:

A United Nations-led independent assessment of reports of human rights violations in Jamaica has determined that extrajudicial killings are still rampant with not enough policemen being punished for their actions.

Asma Jahangir, the UN Commission on Human Rights’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, yesterday told a press conference at the Ministry of Justice, Oxford Road, New Kingston, after her 10-day mission to the island, that many of the reports she received during her research indicated excessive use of force and targeted killings of individuals which could amount to extrajudicial killings and executions.

“In a number of cases there are strong indications that these reports might be accurate,” Ms. Jahangir said.

“There is a strong belief among the disadvantaged that the police and security forces abuse them with impunity. I’ve often heard the term uptown and downtown
justice being used to describe the notion that two different standards of justice were being applied. Another disturbing element of these reports was the allegations of the apparent lack of interest on the part of the Government in recognising this problem.”

She expressed concern that influential pressure groups justified the excessive use of force as a legitimate measure to fight crime; at the deep anguish expressed by the families of those killed by the police and the frustration of witnesses; that a number of people interviewed showed their reluctance in testifying to such killings as they were afraid of reprisals and had little confidence in the criminal legal system; and that she had received reports of threats by the police against families of the deceased.

Ms. Jahangir, however, had high commendations for the Government’s efforts, and expressed high hopes for change if the conclusions and recommendations from her pending report are considered.

She welcomed the fact that in the last few years the resource allocation to the Police
Public Complaints Authority(PPCA) had been enhanced and that several steps had been taken to further develop the training of police and the security forces, to strengthen community policing and to establish the Police Service Commission.

“Almost everybody I met confirmed that there is an official recognition that despite the high levels of crime, it is crucial to ensure that the police and security forces act in accordance with the law,” she said. “ However, I regret that the public discourse centres on the issue of crime without sufficiently recognising that rough and easy justice only adds to more crime and bitter crime.”

Ms. Jahangir’s mission was prompted by reports of killings of civilians by the police and security forces and included meetings with representatives of the Jamaica Constabulary’s Bureau of Special Investigations, the PPCA,  the Jamaica Constabulary’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, and Jamaicans for Justice.

She is now mandated to recommend further constructive measures that the Government can take in addressing the challenges they are facing.

“ I’m not satisfied, of course, otherwise I would not be here,” she said. “There have been convictions of 136 policemen (between 1990 and 2001) on complaints of abuses
but not on extrajudicial killings. I believe the number is very, very low when it comes to this, it is possibly just a couple…”

She said that she was impressed with the openness of Government leaders and ordinary citizenry in expressing their concerns.

Gleaner, February 28, 2003, pp A1 & A6

Later that year, Ms Jahangir’s report was delivered and included references to the wide range of individuals and organizations she met with. It outlined the context of her visit and detailed the concerns that arose from her observations. A number of individual cases were described: Janice Allen and her family, Richard Williams, Michael Gayle, Basil Brown, Patrick Genius, the persons killed and injured in West Kingston in July 2001 and the Braeton 7.  The report ended with a list of conclusions and recommendations. Nearly fifteen years later, it is worth reading to note both what changes have taken place and what remains more or less the same.

Special Rapporteur Jamaica report 2003

UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions report – Mission to Jamaica 2003

This quote from Asma Jahangir, included in a Democracy Now segment remembering her, is an inspiring and good place to end:

“When you start off, there’s something inside you telling you to do it. And it comes because you have a heart and an eye and the courage to stand up against those forces—and there are plenty of them, believe me—that do not wish to see people free. Human rights, it’s not a job, it’s a conviction. I have used the law as an instrument, and I’ve used the courts, but I have been on the streets, as well. I’ve been in protest marches. I have been to prison. I’ve been under house arrest. So, for each issue and for each incident, there has to be a thought-out strategy. Justice is a rare commodity in our part of the world. Very rare. But sometimes even shouting for justice gives you some satisfaction that you’re being heard. And you must be heard. You knock, and you knock, and you knock, and you knock, and you knock, and one day they are going to hear.”

(I was Chairperson of human rights organization Jamaicans for Justice in 2003, when Ms Jahangir visited. I remain a member of the organization. My blog posts are all done in my personal capacity, however.)



Queen Victoria on Parade: Weekly Photo Challenge – Weathered

“This week, show us the effect of time and the elements.”

On East Parade in downtown Kingston, inside St William Grant Park, there is a statue of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria a

It’s been in the Park (which used to be called Victoria Park) for nearly 120 years and has weathered somewhat over that time.


It has even lost its left hand….


The statue was unveiled in 1897 as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations; it was a replica of a statue sculpted by Emanuel Edward Geflowski and still bears the inscription: “Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, and Supreme Lady of Jamaica.” The photo below shows the unveiling ceremony.

Queen Victoria statue - National Library of Jamaica photo

“Unveiling the Queen’s Statue in Jamaica,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed January 10, 2018, http://nljdigital.nlj.gov.jm/items/show/1724. © Copyright NLJ. All Rights Reserved

They say that the statue shifted on its stone base during the 1907 Earthquake, which you seem to be able to see in this photo.

Queen Victoria statue - National Library of Jamaica photo 2 (2)

“Statue of Queen Victoria,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed January 10, 2018, http://nljdigital.nlj.gov.jm/items/show/1725. © Copyright NLJ. All Rights Reserved

A Jamaica Information Service release in the Sunday Gleaner of April 26, 1970 mentioned the story of the statue and the earthquake:

Gleaner Sunday April 26 1970 - statues of Queen Victoria and Sir Alexander - JIS report

Sunday Gleaner, April 26, 1970,  page 1 -“Sir Alex’s Statue to Replace Queen Victoria’s”

On May 12, 1970, Queen Victoria’s statue was moved from its original position on South Parade to make way for the statue of National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante.

Gleaner May 14 1970 - statues of Queen Victoria and Sir Alexander

Gleaner, May 14, 1970, page 1

The statue was later placed in its current location, where it remains to this day.

P1200536 black & white

Weekly Photo Challenge – Weathered







When Will The Public See The JCF Administrative Review Report, Commissioner Quallo?

Last Friday, July 28, 2017, the High Command of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) released the following statement indicating that it has completed an Administrative Review into the May 2010 operation in Western Kingston.JCF release re admin reviews - 28-7-17 aJCF release re admin reviews - 28-7-17 b

Jul.28l.17 – High Command responds to Editorial

The release referred to a Gleaner editorial (actually published on July 24, 2017), which questioned the lack of a public update regarding the JCF’s promised actions in response to the recommendations of the Western Kingston Commission of Enquiry.

The Commission’s report was tabled in Parliament on June 15, 2016, and two weeks later, on June 30, 2016, the JCF issued a press release giving its response to the recommendations made in the Commission’s report. It indicated its position regarding a number of the recommendations –  15.17, 15.18, 15.20, 15.21, 15.22, 15.27, 15.28, 15.30, 15.31 – 15.33, 15.34, 15.35 – saying what actions it intended to take in response.  I do wonder why it took 8 months more (according to last Friday’s press release) for the promised review to begin.

I hope that Commissioner Quallo will make the report public sooner rather than later; it is reportedly now being “shared with the various oversight bodies for the JCF.” Until then, the public will not be able to assess the scope and adequacy of the review or its recommendations. This public accounting is an essential part of the post-Enquiry process.

Twitter Thread

Below is a series of tweets that I made on June 30, 2017, highlighting some issues that ought to be dealt with in the JCF review report.

SG tweet 30-6-17 1SG tweet 30-6-17 2SG tweet 30-6-17 3SG tweet 30-6-17 4SG tweet 30-6-17 5SG tweet 30-6-17 6SG tweet 30-6-17 7SG tweet 30-6-17 8SG tweet 30-6-17 9SG tweet 30-6-17 10SG tweet 30-6-17 11SG tweet 30-6-17 12SG tweet 30-6-17 13SG tweet 30-6-17 14SG tweet 30-6-17 15SG tweet 30-6-17 16SG tweet 30-6-17 17

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Hurricane Flora, 1963: Another Devastating October Hurricane

I have two memories of Hurricane Flora, which brought torrential rains to Jamaica between October 5-7 in 1963; neither memory has to do with the actual rain, but instead are of the aftermath. Perhaps staying home because of rain wasn’t particularly memorable to a 6-year-old, and memory is a strange thing anyway.

Hurricane Flora developed to the east of Trinidad on September 30, 1963 and it is interesting to note the difference in the technical data available for forecasting and tracking a hurricane at that time. This can be seen, for example, in a Preliminary Report on Hurricane “Flora”, September 30 – October 12, 1963 done by the US Weather Bureau:

Hurricane “Flora” was one of the most destructive in recent history in Haiti and Cuba. It was unusually violent when it crossed Haiti during the night of October 3-4. Then it remained nearly stationary for more than four days (October 4-8) over eastern Cuba and produced unprecedented amounts of rainfall, which in turn resulted in devastating floods. Although final figures are not yet available, it appears likely that the death toll will number in the thousands and property losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hurricane “Flora” appears to have formed and intensified rapidly about 150 miles east of Trinidad on September 30, 1963. It seems possible that the original disturbance that eventually developed into “Flora” moved off the African coast on September 23. Later a TIROS VII photograph at 0942Z September 26 (Orbit 1464) showed a large cloud mass in the area between 10 and 15N and 35 and 40W. No additional information was received until a KLM jet airliner bound from Lisbon, Portugal to Paramaribo, Surinam reported a disturbed area near 12.4N 47.2W at approximately 2230Z September 28. On the basis of the KLM report, the San Juan Weather Bureau requested special ship reports in the area east of the Lesser Antilles.

Following ship reports and US Navy reconnaissance aircraft flying to the area on September 30, the first advisory for Hurricane Flora was issued, with hurricane warnings for Trinidad, Tobago and the Grenadines.

Flora followed a long and circuitous track through the Caribbean, part of which is clearly shown on this map:

A map from the current Weather Underground site indicates the strength of Hurricane Flora as it traveled on its path of destruction:wu-hurricane-flora-track-1963

When Flora eventually moved away from the region, it left behind devastating death and damage:

The effects on Jamaica were substantial, though nothing near the catastrophic effects on Haiti and Cuba.

Rainfall levels for Jamaica were record breaking, with the highest amount of 60 inches recorded at Spring Hill in Portland. (The highest amount recorded in the region was 100.39 inches in Santiago de Cuba.)


US Weather Bureau Monthly Review Vol 9 No 3, p. 136

The Gleaner headlines give an indication of the news in Jamaica at the time:


Daily Gleaner, Thursday, Oct 3, 1963


Daily Gleaner, Friday, Oct 4, 1963


Sunday Gleaner, Oct 6, 1963


Daily Gleaner, Monday, Oct 7, 1963


Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, Oct 8, 1963


Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, Oct 9, 1963

As a 6-year-old, I wasn’t aware of any of this news, the deaths, the destruction and the severe hardships being faced by so many. Children nowadays see images on television and the internet, bringing them far closer to the news of things that don’t touch their lives directly. I do remember that when we went back to school, we had to take boiled water with us and we had strict instructions not to drink water from the pipes, as it would make us sick. I carried my water in a regular glass jam jar, with its metal screw-on lid. All the water bottles were lined up on a shelf in the classroom, with our names labelling them.

We lived on Gore Terrace at the time, which is near to the Sandy Gully and one day, my father walked with my older brother and me out to the Sandy Gully Bridge on Constant Spring Road. It wasn’t raining , and there were many other people standing on the bridge looking at the water roaring through the gully and under the bridge. I don’t remember the sound, but the image of the rough torrents of brown water rushing through the gully is seared into my memory. When we crossed the road to the other side of the bridge, the water churned even more violently as it went down the slope in the gully. I clung to Daddy’s hand and that provided a measure of security, but I had a terrible sense of the danger of that water, which seemed like a frighteningly live thing.

Hurricane Matthew has battered Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas over the past few days, and is now threatening the eastern coast of the USA. The news reporting is in real time, with non-stop images via cable, the internet and social media, which is vastly different from the type of reporting possible 53 years ago. As a comparison, you might watch these two short videos about Flora, one recent (using archival footage) and the other from 1963.

Jamaica has escaped with little damage, though at times it seemed as if we might experience Matthew’s category 4 strength. Today, as in 1963, we know that an October hurricane has dealt a far harsher blow to our regional neighbours than it has to us.

.#Matthew: Friday Morning Outlook From Jamaica

I went up on the roof this morning and the view is beautiful and peaceful, as it usually is. p1010350


matthew-met-service-release-30-9-16-5amThe current weather forecasts are, however, showing that Jamaica is increasingly likely to have a direct encounter with Hurricane Matthew. Our Met Service‘s 5am release says that “A Hurricane Watch may be required for Jamaica today.” A Hurricane Watch is usually issued 48 hours before tropical storm force winds are likely to be felt. Once we have that strength winds, it’s difficult to do any further preparations.


The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) map at 8am EST (7am Jamaican time) forecasts that on Monday morning the eye of Hurricane Matthew is likely to be very near the eastern tip of Jamaica, and within the forecast cone a direct hit is quite likely. This can obviously change, but direct hit or not, we are in for severe weather, it seems. Here is the NHC 8:00am advisory.



I don’t like what I am seeing on Weather Underground this morning, which forecasts Matthew as a category 3 hurricane when it affects Jamaica, and the computer models are clustering to show a likely direct hit.


pm-tweet-30-9-16Jamaica Prepares

Prime Minster Andrew Holness held  an emergency meeting with Members of Parliament at the Office of the Prime Minister last night. He has posted an update on Twitter & Facebook, and if you scroll down on his Facebook page, there is a recording posted of the full meeting – Meeting on Hurricane Preparedness. This morning the newspapers have reports of that meeting.

Gleaner: Ready For Matthew – Gov’t Says It’s Prepared For Hurricane, Jamaicans Urged To Store Water

Jamaica Observer: J’cans urged to prepare for Hurricane Matthew

So, even as we keep an eye on the weather forecasts, it’s time to prepare.

I went through Hurricane Gilbert at this house, when it hit at category 3 strength in 1988, and I know that this house can stand a serious storm. But it was very frightening. I know what I need to do to prepare and am beginning to do it.  I hope we don’t have a direct hit; a major hurricane would cause devastating damage in Jamaica.


.#AToZChallengeJamaica: I is for Indignity

I had all sorts of things in mind for my “I” post: iguana, INDECOM, IMF, Integrity Commission, even ice cream (as in Devon House). And then on Wednesday (June 7) I read the following letter in the Gleaner:

Gleaner 7-6-16 Letter of Day heading

Gleaner 7-6-16 Letter of Day text

Indignity. Prison visitors treated with indignity. Treated in a contemptuous, insulting, humiliating manner.

Tower Street Correctional Centre

Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, Kingston


This is not an isolated experience or complaint, and it isn’t to say that all staff within corrections and remand treat visitors contemptuously. But it is to say that there is a systemic problem which often makes it difficult for family members to maintain meaningful contact with a relative who has been incarcerated, though undeniably such contact can be vital to the prisoner, the family, a process of rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society.

One comment following the letter online points to a similar situation experienced at Fort Augusta, the women’s prison, and mentions a lack of shelter for visitors waiting to go inside, a problem that exists at a number of facilities.

Gleaner 7-6-16 letter comment

I know one facility at which the absence of a shelter for visitors is a real concern for the staff, who have asked for such a structure to be built, even a temporary one. I guess, though, that this is very low on any list of priorities.

Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre

Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre, St Catherine

The Core Values of the Department of Correctional Services are posted on its website. Among those values is respect. Systemic focus on respect reduces indignity.

DCS mission statement etc