Document - Jamaica: Proposed terror law could undermine human security
AI Index: AMR 38/015/2004 (Public)
News Service No: 274
29 October 2004
Jamaica: Proposed terror law could undermine human security
In its present form, Jamaica's Prevention of Terrorism Bill poses a serious risk to the human rights of citizens of Jamaica, said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Acting Senior Director today in a letter to the Jamaican Prime Minister, P. J. Patterson.
The letter was sent as the Joint Select Committee charged with the Bill's review prepared to table a report in the House of Representatives on Tuesday recommending substantial changes to the draft legislation.
Ms Lee urged the Government to revise the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2003 to ensure compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law, and particularly with UN Security Council Resolution 1456.
"The Jamaican Government has the right and duty to protect the country from "terrorist" attacks. However, this should be done through measures that are in line with international standards and obligations regarding human rights," Ms Lee said. "The best strategy to defeat "terrorism" is to respect human rights and uphold the primacy of the rule of law."
Amnesty International's main concerns around the proposed legislation include:
The extension of the mandatory death penalty to cover new offences, in violation of international law;
The Bill's broad definition of key terminology creates uncertainty about how the Bill would be applied. This could potentially facilitate human rights violations. The definition of "terrorism offence" could, for example, be used to criminalise certain kinds of political activity or protest, potentially threatening freedom of expression, assembly and conscience;
The risk that the legislation could give rise to unfair trials or politically-motivated prosecutions;
The absence of any review mechanism to require present or future governments to periodically revisit the legislation to assess its necessity in response to current threats.
Ms Lee expressed particular concern about how the legislation would, if enacted, be interpreted and applied.
"Jamaica faces serious problems with violent crime. Amnesty International fears that the legislation could be misused, by present or future governments, to suppress fundamental freedoms in the interest of domestic crime-fighting," said Ms Lee.
The Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2003 was introduced to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) and other international treaties on terrorism signed by Jamaica.
Although primarily aimed at combatting international terrorism, the bill's Memorandum of Objects and Reasons states that "in recent years acts of 'terrorism' have constituted a substantial threat to both domestic and international peace and security."
The Security Council also decided in Resolution 1456 (2003) that, "States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with all their obligations under international law, and should adopt such measures in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law" (point 6, S/RES/1456 (2003)).
For a full copy of the open letter sent to Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, please see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGAMR380112004
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org
For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org