AP

Jamaica imposes state of emergency amid sharp criticism

Dec 5, 2022, 8:33 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2022, 8:05 pm

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Jamaica’s prime minister declared a widespread state of emergency Tuesday to fight a surge in gang violence on an island with one of the highest murder rates in the region.

The measure applies to certain communities in the capital of Kingston as well as six of Jamaica’s 14 parishes, including those where popular tourist spots like Montego Bay are located.

The state of emergency allows authorities to arrest people and search buildings without a warrant, drawing heavy criticism from political opponents and activists who have warned against a repeat of the police abuse and mass detentions that happened under previous states of emergency.

Similar measures have been imposed in El Salvador and Honduras recently.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness dismissed critics, saying in a televised address that his priority is to save lives.

“That is all the government is trying to do,” he said, adding that Jamaicans “have to hide under their beds, hide their daughters, can’t go to church, and they see their sons and their boyfriends and husbands killed. That’s the reality.”

The island of 2.8 million people reported 1,421 killings so far this year, outpacing the 1,375 killings in the same period last year, a spokesman with Jamaica’s Constabulary Force told The Associated Press.

Jamaica has a similar population to the U.S. city of Chicago, which reported 643 killings so far this year.

“We have some really serious criminal threats facing us, and we have to use all the powers at our disposal,” Holness said.

The vast majority of killings in Jamaica are blamed on gangs known as “posses” that have been linked to major political parties and rely on extortion, drug trafficking and lottery scams to finance their activities.

In response, Jamaica has implemented several states of emergency in recent years that have been scrutinized by human rights activists. The nation’s Supreme Court has ruled several times — most recently in June — that detaining Jamaicans for months without a trial, let alone more than a year, is unconstitutional.

States of emergency deliver only marginal results and have worrying consequences, according to Jermaine Young, an expert on emergency powers and former professor at Howard University.

“Jamaica has a sordid reputation for abusing emergency powers,” Young wrote in an essay this month. The police and military “have engaged in practices that include arbitrary and unlawful mass extended detentions, extrajudicial killings and internal renditions.”

On Tuesday, heavily armed soldiers stood on street corners in Kingston and occasionally checked the IDs of people walking by and stopped cars to ask drivers where they were headed. Others entered people’s homes seconds after knocking.

Some residents in Denham Town, considered one of Kingston’s most violent areas, said they welcomed the state of emergency and noted that authorities there had made an effort to get to know them.

“I feel very comfortable because they’re here to serve and protect our community,” said Natalie Thompson.

But others like Everton Dias disagreed with the new measure: “You can’t use a problem to solve a problem.”

Authorities in Jamaica are defending the state of emergency. Police Chief Maj. Gen. Anthony Johnson noted a 64% decline in killings during a smaller, two-week state of public emergency last month.

The prime minister said he is aware of the concerns.

“It is not the intention of the government to abuse these powers,” Holness said. “As long as it is needed, this government will use states of public emergency.”

Holness left the press conference early, saying he was traveling to the U.S. to meet with top security officials and talk about new ways to reduce violent crime.

___

Associated Press videographer Kirk Wright in Kingston, Jamaica contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

9 hours ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

2 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

3 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

3 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

4 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

5 days ago

Jamaica imposes state of emergency amid sharp criticism