From Ray.Mitchell@amnesty.org.uk Sun Jun 11 10:29:58 2000
Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 00:38:15 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: AI: Jamaica bulletin
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGENT ACTION BULLETIN
Electronic distribution authorised
Over 300 prisoners in St Catherine's District Prison, Spanish Town
Amnesty International Urgen Action Bulletin,
AMR 38/05/00, 26 May 2000
Further information on UA 101/00 (AMR 38/03/00, 28 April 2000)
- Deaths in Prison and new concerns: Fear of
Torture/ill-treatment, Medical care, Prison conditions.
Three hundred inmates in St Catherine's District Prison, Spanish
Town, have reportedly been severely beaten and at least two
inmates are alleged to have been shot. Amnesty International is
deeply concerned for their safety.
The attacks apparently began on 21 May and lasted several days.
Soldiers and prison wardens reportedly beat the inmates with
batons, rifles, baseball bats, irons and electric wire. Inmates
suffered fractures to hands, ribs, feet and skulls, and had teeth
Injured prisoners were apparently denied medical attention until
the Head of Medical Services in the prison publicly condemned the
incident. Several inmates are now reported to be in hospital but
it is not clear whether all the injured have received medical
Soldiers and wardens have allegedly continued beating and
harassing inmates since these attacks were publicised on 25 May.
Reports as to what led to the original mass beating vary. It is
believed that a number of inmates barricaded themselves inside
their cells and threw the contents of their slop buckets at
soldiers and warders searching for contraband items. Tension
between prisoners & soldiers is reported to be high after
complaints that food was inedible or even withheld. (On 11 March
2000, some 1,100 prisoners at St Catherine's District Prison and
Kingston General Penitentiary suffered acute diarrhoea caused by
food served in both prisons.) Inmates has also complained about
being confined to their cells for extended periods.
During the attacks warders reportedly targeted those inmates
known to be supportive of the head of Correctional Services,
Colonel John Prescod. Colonel Prescod has reportedly ordered an
internal investigation into whether "the force that was used was
necessary and appropriate."
Inmates are allegedly also being denied visits from friends and
relatives and their mail is being withheld.
Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed its concerns
regarding alleged excessive use of force, in some cases appearing
to amount to extrajudicial executions; excessive force during
cell searches; prison conditions and other ill-treatment in St.
Catherine's prison and other prisons in Jamaica. In December
1993, Amnesty International called for an inquiry into deaths and
ill-treatment of prisoners in St. Catherine's prison.
Soldiers have been manning the prison since around 800 warders
went on unofficial strike in January 2000 in protest against the
reappointment of Colonel John Prescod as Head of Corrections.
They were later indicted. Their anger stemmed in part from his
decision in 1997 to distribute condoms throughout prisons. This
led to rioting, in which 17 inmates were killed, allegedly
because they were thought to be gay.
Since then Amnesty International has continued to receive reports
of ill-treatment in both St. Catherine's and the General
Penitentiary, as well as of the failure of guards to protect
inmates from inmate-upon-inmate violence, in contravention of
Conditions in Jamaica's prisons amount to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment, and fall well below international minimum
standards on prisons. Overcrowding is severe and conditions
The Jamaican constitution guarantees all citizens the right to
life, liberty, security of the person; the right not to be
arbitrarily deprived of life; the right not to be subjected to
torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment.
Supporters of Amnesty International around the world are
writing urgent appeals in response to the concerns
described above. If you would like to join with them in
this action or have any queries about the Urgent Action
network or Amnesty International in general, please
contact one of the following:
Ray Mitchell, firstname.lastname@example.org (UK)
Scott Harrison, email@example.com (USA)
Guido Gabriel, firstname.lastname@example.org (Germany)
Marilyn McKim, email@example.com (Canada)
Anne Nolan, firstname.lastname@example.org (Ireland)