February 27, 2008

We write on behalf of Human Rights Watch to express our concern that Jamaican police have again failed to protect individuals from homophobic violence and to investigate recent abuses against men suspected of being gay by members of the Jamaican community. We urge you to direct the police forces to duly investigate these cases of abuse and violence and to bring to justice those found responsible. We also urge you to ensure a full investigation of the whereabouts of a victim who remains missing after the most recent attack.

On the evening of January 29, 2008, a group of men surrounded a house in Mandeville where four men lived and demanded that the men leave the community because they were gay, according to testimonies gathered by Human Rights Watch. After the crowd attacked the house, throwing bottles, those in the house called the police. Approximately half an hour later, 15-20 men broke down the door and began beating and slashing the inhabitants with sticks, stones, knifes and machetes. The police finally arrived half an hour after the mob had broken into the house – 90 minutes after the men first called for help.

One of the victims, XXXXXXX, managed to flee with the mob pursuing. According to Jamaican press reports blood was found at the mouth of a nearby pit, suggesting he had fallen inside or may have been killed nearby. The police escorted the three other victims away from the scene; two were taken to the hospital. One of the men had his left ear severed, his arm broken in two places, and his spine damaged.

As of today there is no information on the whereabouts of XXXXXXX, one of the men pursued by the crowd. According to human rights defenders in Jamaica the police did not inspect the pit and have not further investigated his disappearance. Meanwhile, he remains missing. To our knowledge no charges have been brought or arrests made among those in the crowd outside the house.

Human Rights Watch has documented an atmosphere of homophobic intolerance and violence in Jamaica in the past, as well as a pattern of indifference or reluctance on the part of the police to investigate such violence. This latest Incident confirms that serious gaps in protection of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community remain. It is also clear that the conditions for violence continue to fester. Active investigation of such violence and prosecution of the perpetrators is essential to send a message at home and to the international community that all Jamaicans are equal and enjoy equal rights.

The Jamaican Constitution recognizes the right to life as a fundamental right. Jamaica has also ratified international and regional instruments that enshrine this protection, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR). In the 1994 case of Toonen v. Australia, the U.N. Human Rights Committee held that sexual orientation is a status protected from discrimination under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

We urge you to ensure a full and impartial investigation of this case and the disappearance of XXXXXXX, and that any persons responsible are brought to justice. We urge you to speak publicly and strongly against violence and in support of diversity and equality. We urge you as well to work closely with groups representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Jamaica, both in pursuing investigations of possible homophobic violence and abuse, and in building relationships of trust with their communities.
Thank you for your attention. We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Schleifer
Advocate
HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Program

Scott Long
Director
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program

Cc: Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, Minister of Justice
R. Admiral Hardy Lewin, Commissioner of Police
Mark Shields, Deputy Commissioner of Police