Chile and Jamaica talk, but not about human rights or justice

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, made a 6 hour stop in Jamaica today to discuss trade issues with our Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Images-4-1 President Bachelet

Unfortunately, Bachelet, who is a pediatrician by profession, did not meet with Jamaica's most famous pediatrician, Dr. Carolyn Gomes, head of local human rights group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ).

Bachelet is a survivor of Pinochet's reign of terror and knows a thing or two about human rights and their importance in a functioning democracy. (She and her mother were imprisoned, beaten and tortured by the Pinochet regime. Their crime ? Being the daughter and wife respectively of an Air Force General who had opposed Pinochet's overthrow of elected socialist President Salvador Allende…..)

Hence Bachelet would likely appreciate Dr. Gomes' concern with the indifference of the Jamaican Government to the murders of innocent citizens by the state security forces.

In recent years JFJ has won compensation for the mother of Michael Gayle, a mentally retarded man beaten to death by a soldier on the streets of Kingston. This week, by way of rejecting JFJ's appeal on behalf of Janice Allen (13 years old, female, murdered at her gate in Trench Town by a policeman for no apparent reason), the Government of Jamaica announced that it intends to bring in new laws to allow defendants freed by the courts to be retried if evidence can be presented to show that the verdict in first trial was perverted by fraud, lying or intimidation of witnesses.

Janice Allen was killed more than 6 years ago. Thanks to Dr. Gomes and the unflagging efforts of Jamaicans for Justice and attorney Richard Small, Janice Allen has not been forgotten, even if the Attorney General, the shamefully irrelevant A.J. Nicholson, has made every effort to pretend that she never existed. Her killer (this is not disputed) Rohan Allen, was not prosecuted because the Government said that another policeman who was the key witness in the case had left the island. This turned out not to be true.

It is possible, and perhaps even likely (given the well-known refusal of Jamaicans for Justice to throw up their hands and despair), that the Government of Jamaica may in fact bring in the legislation and future killers may eventually be brought to justice, even if they "get 'way" the first time.

But it would have been nice, and perhaps even helpful, if Dr. Gomes could have been invited to sit down with Dr. Bachelet. Maybe they could have persuaded Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller of the importance of putting human rights and justice high on her agenda (even if they are nowhere on A.J. Nicholson's )…….You know, trade is good, but man does not live by bread alone..

"Shantytown Protest in Pinochet's Chile" (Cathy Lisa Schneider)

"Fear in Chile: Lives Under Pinochet" (Patricia Politzer)

[posted with ecto]

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