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Police Brutality Remains A Problem In Caribbean – U.S.

CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Mar. 12, 2010: Say police brutality and visions of tortured Haitian migrant Abner Louima may come to mind. But according to the U.S., Caribbean cops in the region are also engaging in `excessive use of force` in many nations.

The latest `Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,` released by the U.S. State Department on Thursday, claims that in several Caribbean nations, the human rights of some of its citizens is being hampered by  vicious cops.

In Antigua and Barbuda, the U.S. says there were occasional reports of police brutality, corruption, excessive force, and discrimination against persons on basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and allegations of abuse by prison guards.

`In May 2008 authorities placed a police officer on administrative leave for the beating of a 17-year-old,` stated the report.  `The deputy police commissioner promised an investigation, and the officer retired. At year`s end the officer still faced criminal charges.`

The U.S. also said there were several incidents during the year involving foreign citizens in which excessive police force was used, as well as threats of violence while in police custody and foreign embassies were not notified on a timely basis, and on occasion consular access was denied.

`In one case six tourists from a cruise ship were involved in an altercation with a taxi driver who took them to a police station to complain. Police arrested them, and they alleged mistreatment by the local police including threats of violence,` said the report.

In The Bahamas, the U.S. says there are often complaints of abuse by police and prison and detention center guards.  The Human Rights report said Thursday that while the Bahamas  government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; there were killings by police in the performance of their duties.

The report pointed to a March 5, 2009 case, in which police shot a Nassau man in disputed circumstances. The victim later died, and the case was under investigation at year`s end. 

Barbados police were also cited for using excessive force. The U.S. report claimed there were police killings in the line of duty. They included a June 9, 2009 incident in which police allegedly shot and killed Hugh Springer by accident, when they were responding to a disturbance. The killing was under investigation at year`s end.  Additionally, the report said that on December 14, 2009, police shot and killed Denzil Headley during an attempted drug landing at Roaches, St. Lucy parish. A routine investigation was also under way at year`s end.

In Belize, human rights problems included killings and the use of excessive force by security forces, said the U.S. report. The report said there were isolated reports that security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

The report cited a March 2009 case in which police officers shot and killed a 20-year-old Belize City resident during an alleged robbery attempt. Witnesses claimed that the police officer stood over the man and shot him in the face while in August, 2009 a Belize City family claimed that police officers beat their 17-year-old son to death while he was in custody on charges of robbery.

In The Dominican Republic, the report said there are several incidents of unlawful killings; beatings and other abuse of suspects, detainees, and prisoners and numerous reports that security forces were involved in many killings that were unlawful, unwarranted, or involved excessive use of force.

The report cited the DR Attorney General`s Office investigation which said police killed 346 persons in 32 jurisdictions in the course of duty during the year, a decrease from 455 police killings reported in 2008.

Guyana was cited for killings by police, torture and mistreatment of suspects and detainees by security forces. The U.S. rights report said security forces committed unlawful killings in Guyana, citing the Police Complaints Authority report which said it received four complaints of unlawful killings in 2009 compared with eight the previous year.

In most cases the police reportedly shot the victims while attempting to make an arrest or while a crime was being committed, said the report. They included the April 12, 2009 case of a 19-year-old man whi died at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation after being shot in the head by an off-duty member of the Presidential Guard following what police said was a robbery.

Haitian cops were also cited for excessive force, with the U.S. report claiming HNP officers killed several persons, who were usually armed and resisting arrest. The report also said there were also allegations of HNP involvement in unlawful killings.

In Jamaica, the U.S. report claimed `there were reliable accounts that security forces committed unlawful or unwarranted killings during the year. `

According to official statistics cited in the report, there were more than 200 shooting cases involving the police as of October 31, resulting in 241 fatalities for the entire year. Additionally, the U.S. report cited sources as indicating `that many police killings were unreported, with police meting out the justice they see as unavailable through the judicial system.`

`In most shooting incidents, police alleged that the victims were carrying firearms and opened fire on them. In many cases, however, eyewitness testimony contradicted the police accounts. In other cases, allegations of `police murder` were suspect, because well-armed gangs trafficking in weapons and narcotics and running lottery scams controlled many inner-city communities and were often better equipped than the police force,` stated the Right report.

Cops in St. Kitts and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were also cited for using excessive force. In St. Kitts, the U.S. State Department said citizens were becoming increasingly afraid of reporting crime because of the heavy-handedness with which police carried out their duties.  They also cited the case of Devon Albertine since authorities brought no charges against the police who shot and injured Albertine in January 2008.

`Nor were charges brought against police who shot Beko Lapsey, also in January 2008. In both incidents, authorities determined that the shootings were justifiable,` said the report.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines cops were also slammed for using excessive force with the report citing several incidents of cop killings. They include the 2007 killing by security forces of two Venezuelan nationals, Matias Dominquez and Alexis Munoz.

Trinidad and Tobago was cited for police killings during apprehension or custody. The U.S. report claims that 46 persons died during the year while in police custody or at the hands of law enforcement officers.

It also added that while authorities investigated or opened inquests into some of the killings, only 6 percent of inquiries into police killings of civilians have been completed since 1999. And in cases where charges were brought, 50 percent of the officers were acquitted.

The only Caribbean nations not cited for excessive force by cops were Dominica, St. Lucia, Suriname and Grenada. However, Dominica was slammed for poor prison conditions, corruption, domestic violence against women and children, and adverse conditions experienced by indigenous Kalinago tribe while Grenada was cited for allegations of corruption, violence against women, and instances of child abuse.

Rights issues in St. Lucia highlighted include primarily abuse of suspects and prisoners by the police, long delays in trials and sentencing, violence against women, and child abuse while in Suriname, the U.S. said rights woes included overcrowded detention facilities; an overwhelmed judiciary with a large case backlog; lengthy pretrial detention; self-censorship by some media; governmental corruption; societal discrimination against women, minorities, and indigenous people; violence against women; trafficking in women, girls, and boys; and child labor in the informal sector.