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News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller

pointed commentary on current affairs in Jamaica and the Caribbean

Spare the Rod Because…..

 

Photo by Wikipedia
Photo by Wikipedia

Put aside discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of corporal punishment for a moment. I’m positing instead that by continuing to allow corporal punishment, Jamaica is in breach of its obligations under the international treaties we have signed, and also that corporal punishment is now arguably unconstitutional.

Corporal Punishment in Schools

Jamaica ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1991.

The UNCRC does not specifically prohibit corporal punishment. This has, however, been interpreted as the effect of the treaty by the Committee which monitors and interprets  the Convention.

Article 37 prohibits torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment while Article 19 places a duty on states to take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse…”

The Committee has repeatedly stated that corporal punishment is incompatible with the

Photo from Stocksnap
Photo from Stocksnap

Convention, for example in a 2001 General Comment on The Aims of Education, that “Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates. …”

In 2006 the Committee stated in another General Comment  that “The Committee defines “corporal” or “physical” punishment as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light” and said that “In the view of the Committee, corporal punishment is invariably degrading.”

The Committee, as far back as 1995, identified corporal punishment of children as an area of concern in relation to Jamaica’s fulfillment of its Convention obligations.

Jamaica also ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1975. The Committee which monitors that Convention stated in 1999 in a General Comment on the “The Right to Education”  that “ …corporal punishment is inconsistent with the fundamental guiding principle of international human rights law…the dignity of the individual.”

  Continue reading “Spare the Rod Because…..”

70 Years of the UN Charter – Mixed Reviews

 

Flag_of_the_United_Nations.svgHow well has the United Nations managed to “maintain international peace and security, … develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, …and to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character?”

Any attempt to answer in any depth is far beyond for a blog post, more like a PhD thesis or one of those huge doorstop textbooks!!! But I won’t let that stop me from making a few observations.

 

The Charter turned 70 years old on June 26th,   with UN Secretary general ban Ki-Moon declaring that the anniversary is:

 

“a timely opportunity to highlight its many and enduring achievements — and to strengthen our collective resolve to do more to promote peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.” Continue reading “70 Years of the UN Charter – Mixed Reviews”

#UncertainFuture – CARICOM and the Dominican Republic

CARICOM Flag
CARICOM Flag

It’s encouraging to hear Jamaican Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister A.J. Nicholson explain that CARICOM has not been silent on the latest developments in the Dominican Republic, where thousands of people of Haitian descent, stripped of citizenship by a 2013 ruling of the DR’s Constitutional Court are now in fear of forced eviction to Haiti.

While encouraging, though, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say I want to hear more, and more loudly. Continue reading “#UncertainFuture – CARICOM and the Dominican Republic”

Lost in the Prison System – Again!  

Photo by Nuchylee at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by Nuchylee at www.freedigitalphotos.net

The story of Delroy McIntosh, imprisoned for nearly 25 years after being adjudged unfit to plead, is a national disgrace. The fact that Mr. McIntosh was originally imprisoned for possession of ganja is one of the irrelevancies that is often strewn across such discussions.

As was the case with Mario Deane, who died in police custody after being arrested for ganja possession, the issue here is not whether people should be locked up for possession of ganja. We should not therefore, be deluded into believing that the recent amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act will cure the problem.

I say this because the critical issue here is that a vulnerable man, with no one to advocate for him and remind the world that he existed,  was lost in Jamaica’s prison system, and as a result lost 25 years of his life. The fact that he was locked up for possession of ganja is irrelevant because it could have been any other minor offence, and the result would have been the same.

In fact, we saw the same result in 2001, when Alfred “Ivan Barrows” Nettleford was released from prison after 28 years, having been jailed in 1972 for breaking a window.

The real issues here are the treatment of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system, the lack of proper treatment for them, and the lack of accountability and tracking of people in the system. These deficiencies resulted in the violation of Mr. McIntosh’s and Mr. Nettleford’s right to liberty. The sad truth is we have no idea whether there are any others in the same position.

As with “Ivan Burrowes,” Mr. McIntosh has been released thanks to the efforts of human rights activist, Nancy Anderson. On this occasion, students at the Norman Manley Law School worked along with her. She says she will be continuing this important work.

In the meantime, Justice Minister Mark Golding has promised improvements that will prevent a recurrence. That is an important first step. But we need more. We must see a thorough overhaul and streamlining of the way in which we deal with the mentally ill, other vulnerable groups, and indeed, all prisoners, to ensure that nothing like this happens again. And we must hold the Justice Minister to his word.

 

 

Nigeria girls who fled Boko Haram look to brighter future

Interesting update on the Chibok girls who did escape from Boko Haram –

Lawyers Alert

Picture taken on May 5, 2014 shows Chibok school girls who escaped from the Boko Haram Islamists gathering to receive information from officials
.

 

Lagos (AFP) – A typical day for Deborah includes classes on a manicured university campus and exercise in the evening — basketball, volleyball or aerobics. On weekends, she studies, swims or just relaxes.

 

But the teenager’s life now is one that was unimaginable 12 months ago.

On April 14 last year, she was in a packed dormitory at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, seeking a night’s sleep before writing end-of-term exams.

Boko Haram fighters stormed the school after sundown, kidnapping 276 girls.

The mass abduction provoked global outrage and brought unprecedented attention to an insurgency that has devastated northern Nigeria since 2009.

Deborah was one of 57 girls who escaped within hours of the attack. Her life has changed but for the other 219 hostages still being held and for families desperate for news, the nightmare continues.

Despite promises…

View original post 652 more words

Ganja Reform, Rights and Rasta

Unrolled_joint
www.wikipedia.com

In 1997, Dr. Dennis Forsythe, described in Forsythe v Director of Public Prosecutions and Attorney General (1997 34 J.L.R. 512) as a sociologist, holist, author, Rastafarian and attorney-at-law, petitioned the Supreme (High) Court for a declaration that his constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion had been infringed by the Dangerous Drugs Act 1924. Forsythe had been arrested for illegal possession of marijuana (called ganja in Jamaica) and a chillum pipe (used to smoke marijuana) at his house. 

This is my post at Oxford Human Rights Hub. Do read the rest here.

Does Arthur Williams Have Clean Hands? – Williams v Holness Part 2

Image by David Castillo Dominici at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Image by David Castillo Dominici at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

There was a collective national gasp in 2013, when, after having been ousted from the Senate by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, by way of delivery to the Governor General of a pre-signed letter of resignation and a pre-signed letter of authorization to date and send the resignation letter, Arthur Williams revealed that he had crafted those very letters.

There was doubt in some quarters that Williams would even be entertained in the Supreme Court, given his significant contribution to creating the very devices that were used to remove him from the Senate.

When the Supreme Court ruled that the letters were inconsistent with the constitution, contrary to public policy, null and void, the questions were raised again.

How could Arthur Williams benefit from a ruling made necessary by a situation that he himself had brought about? Shouldn’t he have been barred from accessing the court, or at the very least not have benefitted from its ruling? Read more in my post on www.rjrnewsonline.com. 

You’re Fired! (or Not) – Williams v Holness Part 1

Image by master isolated images www.freedigitalphotos.net
Image by master isolated images http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

According to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Arthur Williams v Andrew Holness, political leaders have no power to revoke the appointment of Senators. The question we are left with is whether they should have that power.

The case has left Jamaicans asking about its immediate impact on the composition of the Senate, with lawyers for Mr. Williams maintaining that he and Mr. Tufton are still Senators while lawyers for Mr. Holness disagree. Read more in my post at www.rjrnewsonline.com.

What Miss Jamaica Missed

great writing as always……

Under the Saltire Flag

KaciFen2

And so it happened, the extraordinarily beautiful and humble Kaci Fennell, Jamaica’s contestant in Donald Trump’s intergalactic pageant, was not, in the end, crowned Miss Universe. She came fifth. The crowd in Miami booed. To tell the truth, they went ape-shit! ‘Ms Jamaica’ trended across America’s twittosphere for hours – and at #1 at that – oh the irony! At home, Jamaicans cried ‘racism’; they cried ‘block de road!’; they cried, ‘give me one of those Bain placards we not using anymore, cross out de name ‘Bain’, and put ‘Kaci’ instead! We want Justice!’  It was high drama. Even the other contestants flocked around the Caribbean beauty, commiserating her 5th place, instead of flocking around the unpopular winner, Ms Colombia, to offer due congratulations.

KaciFen1

My own misgivings about beauty pageants have been made public before. They remain the same. Pageants help to establish very dangerous standards of beauty for…

View original post 1,481 more words

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