JIS News

Attorney General and Justice Minister, Senator A.J. Nicholson, has called on members of the security forces to guard against the use of deadly force in the normal course of carrying out their duties.
Making his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate last week, the Attorney General stressed that the security forces – the police and the army – may use deadly force, “only in self-defence or in other circumstances permitted by law”.
“When the state puts a gun into the hands of its representative, this is not a licence to kill; nor is it a licence to enforce vigilante justice,” the Attorney General said, noting that the gun and other implements were held by the police and soldiers for the protection of the Jamaican populace.
“And so, not for the first time, I call upon the police and army in Jamaica to guard against the risk of the State itself sinking into the abyss of a murderous culture,” Senator Nicholson added.
He said the Justice Ministry and the Attorney General’s chambers were keen to work with the National Security Ministry to ensure that when members of the security forces “found it necessary to take a life”, they did so only in lawful and fully justifiable circumstances.
The Attorney General stressed that neither the Justice Ministry nor the Administration were in support of killings that took place outside of the ambit of the country’s law.
“If the state turns a blind eye to unlawful killings under the cover of the law, this will only drive the society into the arms of lawlessness,” the Attorney General argued.
Furthermore, he said if the State was perceived as sanctioning unlawful killings, there would be no confidence in the security forces. Senator Nicholson noted that the right to life required “vigilance on all sides”.
The Minister further pointed out that many of the rights that formed the important components of Jamaica’s domestic, legal and constitutional framework could be traced back to the terms of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. He noted, however, that although the Declaration was valuable, it was a resolution of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and as such was not binding on States.
Members of the UN have since reached agreement on two major treaties establishing human rights rules that are binding on States. He said the Treaties – The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – are now binding on Jamaica, and other countries.
In the meantime, the Attorney General said a legal officer would be appointed soon in the Human Rights Unit of the Justice Ministry to assist in monitoring complaints made by citizens and human rights groups about violations.
He pointed out that the individual would also work with citizens and their lawyers toward addressing particular human rights questions.
Senator Nicholson said the officer would also work alongside lawyers in the Attorney General’s Chambers on the international and local front on various human rights issues.
The Unit will be provided with a communications specialist, whose function will be to ensure that the Ministry’s perspectives on various matters are widely disseminated and made available to the public in good time.