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News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller

pointed commentary on current affairs in Jamaica and the Caribbean

Category

Human Rights

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”

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.

 

 

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.

The Free Speech Debate & Charlie Hebdo

I’m blogging today at http://www.rjrnewsonline.com. Check out my latest post!

Photo by David Monniaux on Wikipedia
2006 protest march in Paris against Charlie Hebdo Photo by David Monniaux on Wikipedia

 

One of the cartoons published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo portrayed France’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as a monkey. Would you regard that as racist?

Was it their right to publish that and other cartoons denounced by some Muslims as blasphemous of the prophet Mohammed? Should freedom of expression protect offensive speech? To a great extent, I believe the answer is yes. And yet, the debate over freedom of expression is a difficult, complicated and nuanced one. Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should. And what if what appears to be an offensive statement is simply being misunderstood? Read more here.

Shocking Attack on Press Freedom in France

Image by Simon Howden at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Image by Simon Howden at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Today’s attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo in which gunmen murdered 12 people, including eight journalists, four of them cartoonists, has led to outrage all across the world. Reports are now coming in of vigils being held in several cities including London, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie is trending worldwide, and messages of condemnation continue to pour in from journalists, world leaders and the public.

Among the most poignant memorials have been those crafted by cartoonists, including one cartoon depicting a gunman standing over his murdered victim saying “He drew first.”

There is little to add, except to salute our brave colleagues, led by editor and cartoonist Stephene Charbonnier (Charb) who is quoted as saying “I would rather die standing than live on my knees.”

The courage of the Charlie Hebdo journalists cannot be overstated, and we condemn their murderers and this despicable attack by those who would seek to silent independent and critical voices.

Below is a statement made by the Press Association of Jamaica.

January 7, 2015

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 The Press Association of Jamaica wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to the people and government of France, on the occasion of today’s shocking attack on the staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

 The reports at this time indicate that 12 people have been killed including members of the press and two policemen, and several others wounded by gunmen who invaded the offices at the magazine earlier today. We deeply deplore the loss of life and the injuries suffered by all the victims.

 The PAJ regards this as an attack upon democracy and freedom of the press, which must be of concern to all who support these important values anywhere in the world.

 We stand with our colleagues in France as we condemn this violent attack and reiterate the importance of guarding democracy and protecting the press from intimidation.

                                                                    -30-

 Disclosure: I am the President of the PAJ. 

Is the West Kingston Enquiry a Waste of Time?

Image by master isolated images www.freedigitalphotos.net
Image by master isolated images www.freedigitalphotos.net

Please read my post on this issue at http://www.rjrnewsonline.com – I’d love to know what you think!

The answer to the question as to whether the West Kingston enquiry, just started at the Jamaica Conference Centre, is a waste of time probably depends on your expectations. If you want to see someone pronounced guilty and sent to prison, then you may well find it a waste of time since the enquiry is not a criminal trial.

Read more here. 

Is The Age of Innocence the Age of Consent?

Image by Simon Howden at www.freedigitalphotos.com
Image by Simon Howden at www.freedigitalphotos.com

Should the age at which people can legally consent to sexual intercourse be 16? Or should it be raised to 18? I explore this and related issues in two posts on http://www.rjrnewsonline.com on this issue, Part 1 which you can read here and Part 2 which you can read here. Check them out. Let me start you off….

“Children shouldn’t be having sex!”

“You can’t vote at 16, so why should a 16-year-old be allowed to have sex?”

“Our laws need to send the message that we don’t believe that it is ok to have sex at 16!”

This is just a sampling of the types of responses that have been generated in the wake of the review of the Sexual Offences Act, and in particular the status of children under the Act. Remember, anyone under the age of 18 is a child, according to the Child Care and Protection Act.

The problem is that the discussion, as it generally unfolds, ignores the wider context of the various age limits applicable to childhood and the reasons for the disparities. Read more here.

Marital Rape Still an Issue in Jamaica in 2014

Photo by Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Hi there, I am blogging at http://www.rjrnewsonline.com on this issue of marital rape – do check it out!

What should we make of the (renewed) protests against the proposal to criminalise rape in all circumstances, including those within a marriage? The protests, or perhaps worse, the snickering, trivialize what is one of the most important issues facing women all across the world, that of domestic violence. Read more here.

 

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