Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017

Jamaica

Profile

Freedom Status: 
Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Population: 
2,700,000
Capital: 
Kingston
GDP/capita: 
$5,232
Press Freedom Status: 
Free
Overview: 

Jamaica’s political institutions are democratic, with competitive elections and orderly rotations of power. However, corruption remains a serious problem, and long-standing relationships between officials and organized crime figures are thought to persist. Gang and vigilante violence remains a concern, as does harassment and violence against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people.

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won a narrow victory in February’s legislative elections, pushing the incumbent People’s National Party (PNP) into opposition. Monitors deemed the elections competitive and credible, but noted some instances of election-related violence.
  • In July, the PNP’s treasurer levied allegations that senior party officials had misappropriated millions of dollars’ worth of campaign donations ahead of the 2016 polls.
  • A commission tasked with investigating severe violence that accompanied a 2010 police operation in Kingston found that security forces had acted disproportionately, and recommended that the government apologize for the events and provide victims with compensation and counseling services.
Executive Summary: 

Monitors from the Organization for American States (OAS) deemed the February 2016 general elections competitive and credible, but recorded instances of election-related violence ahead of the polls. The opposition JLP won 32 seats in the legislature in a narrow victory over the PNP, which took 31; no other parties won representation. JLP leader Andrew Holness was sworn in as the new prime minister in March.

Separately, in a July report, the PNP’s treasurer accused unnamed senior party leaders of siphoning off millions of dollars’ worth of funds donated to the party in order to bolster their personal campaigns for February’s elections. Jamaica’s Office of the Contractor General (OCG) was investigating the matter at year’s end.

In December, an investigative commission tasked with providing an objective review of the state of emergency declared in 2010 in response to violence in the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston issued its findings; during the state of emergency, more than 70 civilians were killed in an operation aimed at arresting an alleged drug trafficker. The report found that while the state of emergency had been justified, “its execution by some members of the security forces was disproportionate, unjustified and unjustifiable,” and recommended that the government issue an apology for the events and provide counseling services and compensation to victims.

Explanatory Note: 

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Jamaica, see Freedom in the World 2016.

Aggregate Score: 
75
Freedom Rating: 
2.5
Political Rights: 
2
Civil Liberties: 
3

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