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  • Officers within the public sector are to commence human rights training in June, as the Government advances plans to establish a National Human Rights Institute for Jamaica.
  • The training, which will begin with judicial officers, is targeting all public sector professionals, whose work involve aspects of human rights.
  • The Government has been working on establishing the Institute since May 2014 with technical support from the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It will complement the existing network of institutions that are mandated to protect the rights of nationals.

Officers within the public sector are to commence human rights training in June, as the Government advances plans to establish a National Human Rights Institute for Jamaica.

The training, which will begin with judicial officers, is targeting all public sector professionals, whose work involve aspects of human rights.

The Government has been working on establishing the Institute since May 2014 with technical support from the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It will complement the existing network of institutions that are mandated to protect the rights of nationals.

In a statement in the Senate today (May 22), on Jamaica’s recent Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights, Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, explained that the intention is to “go through the system to train the different cohort of persons, who are part of the key agencies and institutions that touch and concern human rights”.

“Part of the plan of action is to train people on human rights issues, the conventions, the existing infrastructure in Jamaica, and the role of the National Human Rights Institute,” he said.

He said the Government is looking at the Office of the Public Defender “as a possible and likely candidate for the expansion of its role to become the National Human Rights Institute. We have been working with them around that issue.”

Opposition Senator, Kavan Gayle, commended the Government on the work it continues to do in the area of safeguarding human rights.

“As a developing country, we appear as if we are really first world in protecting human rights and we must be commended on that,” he said.

Another Opposition Senator, Alexander Williams, contended that the establishment of the institute, is the “lynchpin of the policing of how the state deals with human rights”.

“The intention of the National Human Rights Institute will be to actively go out there and defend the human rights of people and may even suggest additional economic rights outside of what may now exist in the Constitution for the state to consider,” he pointed out.

For her part, Opposition Senator, Marlene Malahoo Forte, noted that the Government of Jamaica has done a lot in the realm of human rights.

“We have a tendency to criticise ourselves very harshly and while there is a place for that, a lot of work has been done by Jamaica, and Jamaica has led the way in many areas (of human rights),” she said.

Jamaica participated in the meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, from May 13 to 15, 2015, which considered the country’s report to the 22nd session of the Second Cycle Universal Periodic Review.

The Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council was established pursuant to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly Resolution of March 15, 2006.

All UN Member States participate in the Universal Periodic Review process, which is aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground, and supporting co-operation in the promotion and protection of human rights; ensuring the fulfilment of each state’s human rights obligations and commitments.

It also encourages the sharing of best practices among states and other stakeholders; as well as full co-operation and engagement among the Human Rights Council, other human rights bodies, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The review takes the form of an interactive dialogue between the state concerned and the other UN member states.

The first cycle of the review spanned the four-year period, 2008 to 2011. The current (second) cycle began in June 2012, and during this period, countries are required to update the Council on measures taken to implement the recommendations that were accepted, as well as any other pertinent reforms and developments relating to human rights in their countries.