International media taking note of “extra-judicial” killings

International media taking note of “extra-judicial” killings

I must link to this story today. England’s Independent newspaper has published a story about the amount of “extra-judicial” killings by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The international media is finally taking notice. Last week, the Daily Mail wrote this story, and whether or not this is right, when the international gaze falls on a country, officials take the issue more seriously (a phenomenon not exclusive to Jamaica). This is, of course, because international reputation still matters, especially in countries dependent on tourism.

Jamaica has brought in an independent investigator from the U.K. to look into this matter. His name is Hamish Campbell and there has been surprisingly little news about him, and almost no explanation from the JCF or government ministries that I can find. (Campbell is not the first Englishman to join the JCF; Mark Shields and several others previously did so in various roles.)

The story I just linked to above was the first mention in the mainstream media of Campbell, according to a quick web search. Here are some others: INDECOM laments ‘extraordinary high’ number of police killings in October; and another, both from the Gleaner. And Observer stories: here, and here. The lack of media focus on Campbell surprises me, I must note, as it is such a significant appointment. Why is the media not paying more attention to Mr. Campbell’s appointment? Perhaps access has been restricted, or is there another reason?

This is remarkable. Think about the optics and the reality of an Englishman, a foreigner, coming to Jamaica to examine the activities of its security forces, who are allegedly killing beyond the constraints of their nation’s own binding laws. Think about that for a minute. An official from a nation’s former colonizer coming to investigate alleged extrajudicial activities. While this phenomenon does not technically raise issues of state sovereignty, it does call into question a nation’s own mastery over one of the very institutions that should bind it together.

Think also about how people of another nation would react if police were killing an average of one person per day. The police allegedly kill one person every day in Jamaica. What if they had rubber bullets or tear gas or tazers? Of course, these are no match for criminals who are equipped with guns, but I am just trying to explore this issue through different lenses. There must be a more fulsome conversation, but unfortunately, there does not seem to be more uproar amongst the general public. Or perhaps they are frightened? In any case, hopefully the international attention will push this issue to the forefront of the government’s agenda.

6 thoughts on “International media taking note of “extra-judicial” killings

  1. Pingback: Rate of police killings slows in 2014 | Jamaican Journal

  2. Good points re bringing in outsiders. I guess I’m just surprised that the local media has not done anything substantial, there is no doubt of its newsworthiness, and yes, I would like it to focus on going forward too.

  3. Not sure you have the slant right. Campbell is INDECOM’s Assistant Commissioner, so his role is in line with that position, rather than his being ‘brought in’ to investigate.

    Jamaica, being a former British colony, still has close links with lots of British establishments, so UK expatriates working officially are not that odd. JCF has had close links with the Metropolitan Police.

    The media not focusing on Campbell per se is no bad thing; INDECOM has been the focus of much press coverage and how that organ is working is really what’s important, rather than the personalities holding posts within.

    Of course, foreign media love whatever seems sensational (and the Daily Mail has this as its forte). Countries like Jamaica have to live with the media spotlight shining brightly for stories such as police ‘death squads’ (negative), crime/drugs (negative)–which, naturally would pique interest in a country from which a lot of tourists come–and some (positive) stock ‘heroes’ (athletes, singers, etc).

    • Hi Dennis, thanks for your thoughtful comments. The discomfort I feel is general- with a country bringing in expertise that it likely already has. I do realize there are still close links, but at what point to former colonies stop bringing in foreign expertise and depend on what they have already learned?
      And as a reporter, I would have been very interested in writing a profile on Campbell and his mission and my curiosity is likely not restricted to just me, so I doubt my Jamaican colleagues lack that interest. So why no story?
      You are right- all media, not just foreign, love sensational stories.

      • Crime & corruption are two instances where ‘outsiders’ doing investigations may be well-justified, not least because they are less likely to be tainted by the ‘system’, or have ‘due to pay’ to locals. They may well meet much resistance, but that’s then quite instructive. The general argument against bringing in expats where local expertise exists needs to see that context.

        You could, of course, approach INDECOM to do that profile, and we’d read with interest. The back story on Campbell is quite well known, including his role in the Jill Dando murder case. But, after a while, it’s the forward-looking story I’d like to see, such as what has he been able to achieve in his new role.

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