Language Switcher

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, E/CN.4/2005/64/Add.1, March 29, 2005: Jamaica

494. On 6 December 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent a letter of allegation concerning individuals and associations defending the rights of homosexual men and women in Jamaica, in particular the members of the human rights organisation JFLAG, the Jamaican Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. The Special Rapporteur’s attention had been drawn to a letter to the editor by the Jamaican Police Federation’s Public Relations Officer, published in the Jamaica Observer of 25 November 2004. In his letter, which followed the publication on 16 November 2004 of a report by Human Rights Watch entitled “Hated to death: homophobia, violence and Jamaica’s HIV/AIDS epidemic”, the Police Federation’s Public Relations Officer “condemn[s] the role of these so-called ‘human rights’ groups to spread lies and deliberately malign and slander the police force and the Government”. He called on “the Minister of Justice to examine these allegations and slap on sedition charges where necessary to both foreign and local agents of provocation”.

In stating that “the Government and the police cannot be held responsible for … the cultural responses of the population towards gay” people, the letter also appeared to condone violence against homosexual men and women. This impression was insufficiently dispelled by the assurance that “as law enforcement officers, we try our utmost ‘to serve, to reassure and to protect’ ”. The letter to the Observer editor raised particular concerns, against the background of reported attacks and threats against persons defending the rights of homosexual men and women in Jamaica. According to information received, on 9 June 2004 Brian Williamson, a well-known gay rights activist, was murdered in his home. Within an hour after his body was discovered, a crowd reportedly gathered outside the crime scene. A man called out, “Battyman [homosexual] he get killed!” Many others reportedly celebrated Williamson’s murder, laughing and calling out, “Let’s get them one at a time”, “That’s what you get for sin” and “Let’s kill all of them.”

Furthermore, it is reported that JFLAG regularly received intimidating mail, e-mails and telephone calls. For example, according to the information received, on 16 November 2004 an anonymous male called JFLAG and stated that “homosexuals should be dead”. On 17 November at 2 p.m., an anonymous female caller stated that homosexuals should “either stay in the closet or seek asylum abroad”. On 22 November an anonymous male caller again stated that homosexuals should be dead. A letter received through the regular mail service during that week bore the message “You are a go-dead faggard”. These incidents were reported in writing to the Matilda’s Corner police station in Kingston on 26 November 2004.

In view of the above, concern was expressed that individuals and associations defending the rights of homosexual men and women, in particular the members of JFLAG, might have been at risk of, on the one hand, attempts by public authorities to suppress their exercise of free speech, and, on the other hand, of violent attacks by homophobic individuals who may have gained the impression that the Government would not vigorously pursue such violence.[110]

Link to full text of the report: Summary of cases-SR Freedom of Opinion-2005-eng

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  Please  note  that  this  case  is also  mentioned  in the report  of the Special  Representative  of the Secretary-General  on the situation of human rights defenders,  E/CN.4/2005/101/Add.1, March 16.