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The first 15 years of existence of Jamaicans for Justice have been marked by some very real successes in the area of advocacy and human rights protection. The 1999 beating to death of a mentally ill man, Michael Gayle, by security forces catapulted the then brand-new organisation into the national spotlight, and exposed the horror of state brutality. Read more
I get it. People don’t like Jamaicans for Justice, and a lot of people probably believe the name should be changed to Jamaicans for Injustice. Former controversial cop Reneto Adams wasn’t shy about his dislike of the organisation, which he dubbed, along with like-minded entities (think Amnesty International) as “human wrongs groups.” He wasn’t alone.
Jamaica has high levels of violent, horrendous crime. Human rights activists have been painted as criminal lovers and defenders of criminals because they dare to take the hugely unpopular position that each and every one of us(including gunmen) should have our human rights respected and should not be abused by agents of the state. Their insistence that force should be a last resort and that the level of police killings in Jamaica is unacceptable makes them targets of hostility.
I get that. I hold no brief for JFJ although I’m sure it sounds like it sometimes, since I feel obligated to correct the wrong and unfair comments made about the group by callers to my programmes.
eg they never speak out when police are killed. NOT TRUE. JFJ issues a statement of condemnation whenever policemen are killed. I know this as a fact. I see the statements when they come into the newsroom and I see them included in the newscast.
They only take up for criminals (whether alleged, accused or convicted). NOT TRUE. JFJ has, for several years, maintained an active and spirited advocacy on behalf of children in the care of the State that has resulted in the Government of Jamaica being forced to defend itself before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.
But I digress. So I get why Jamaicans dislike them. Here’s what I don’t get. JFJ speaks out when they believe there have been human rights abuses by agents of the state. That is the cause which they have chosen. So what’s with this constant call for them to speak out on behalf of victims of crime, incest survivors, children abandoned in the jungle and left to be brought up by Tarzan and Jane, etc etc?
Whether you like their mandate or not, they have chosen it, and they are executing it. If we think those other causes are important, why not take them up ourselves? I am sure Tarzan’s adopted kids would appreciate it.