Amnesty raps region for human rights abuses

LONDON, England, May 30, 2008 – Amnesty International (AI) has cited a number of Caribbean countries for police brutality, unlawful killings and discrimination among other human rights abuses in its latest report.

The ‘AI Report 2008: State of the World’s Human Rights’ released in London, shows that 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, people are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries, face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries.

Among those mentioned are the Caribbean nations of the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico, with most being cited for police abuse.

The Bahamas was cited for beatings and unlawful killings by members of the security forces as well as continued deportation and reported ill treatment of migrants, the vast majority of whom are Haitians. The island was also rapped for its high rate of reported rapes and for new death sentences passed last year.

Police brutality also landed Trinidad and Tobago in the AI report. Researchers cited a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee issued report in July which was highly critical of the police service and the reported killings of several people by lawmen across the island.

Alleged police abuse also put the spotlight on Puerto Rico, which made the report amidst concerns about police brutality and the excessive use of force by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

The complaint was similar for Jamaica which was cited for police killings in socially excluded inner-city communities. The report said officers there were largely unaccountable and rarely brought to justice for human rights violations. Jamaica was also rapped for discrimination and violence against women and gay men, with AI saying such bigotry was widespread.

Reported discrimination against Haitians landed the Dominican Republic in the report. AI expressed concern about a new measure which saw children born to undocumented migrants being listed in a registry for foreigners. Racially motivated attacks against Haitian migrant workers, reported throughout the year, were also condemned as was the reported rise in violence against women and police brutality.

In Haiti, violence against women was the number one area of concern for AI which referred to figures released by NGOs showing that the number of reported rapes increased in comparison to previous years. It also mentioned allegations of abuse of Haitian women and girls by 108 Sri Lankan peacekeepers.

While the United States embargo on Cuba was criticised for restricting freedom of movement between the two countries, the island was also cited for its continued state control of the media, arbitrary detention practices and for using the criminal justice system to silence political dissidents and critics.

AI cautioned that the biggest threat to the future of human rights is the absence of a shared vision and collective leadership. It therefore challenged governments to set a new paradigm for this type of leadership, based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Secretary General of Amnesty International, Irene Khan said that “2008 presents an unprecedented opportunity for new leaders coming to power and countries emerging on the world stage to set a new direction and reject the myopic policies and practices that in recent years have made the world a more dangerous and divided place”. (CaribWorldNews)