Law students turn to Jamaica

Widespread corruption in Jamaica’s police force is a major concern for international advocacy groups, for the Jamaican government and now for GW Law School students who recently published a report detailing the police force’s crimes.

GW Law School professor Arturo Carrillo, and students Sarah Hwang and Erin Culbertson co-authored the report while students Jordan Nodel and Adrienne Hillery accompanied Carrillo on the investigative trip to Jamaica last December. Colleagues of Carrillo, who has an interest in human rights and English-speaking Caribbean cultures, provided fuel and support for the investigation once the group arrived in Jamaica.

“We worked with them the whole time, and they were a reason we went there,” Carrillo said.

The students’ investigation found 270 cases of murder committed by the Jamaican police force. Carrillo said the issues of corruption and brutality have “a glaring need for support” and added that his students met with Jamaica’s Minister of Justice, government and police officials, non-governmental organizations and families the of victims killed by police officers.

“This study was a really good way to learn about the international system and it is incredible that GW was able to conduct its own investigation,” Culbertson said.

The study has strengthened the Law School’s relationship with Jamaicans for Justice, a non-profit, non-partisan citizens’ rights action group who also co-authored the study along with Carillo and the students.

“This study has really strengthened our relationship with JFJ who use the report to draw attention to this problem within their own nation,” Culbertson said.

On March 7, students who participated in the study, JFJ officials and a witness whose teenage son was killed by Jamaican police attended a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in hopes that the IAC will apply pressure to the Jamaican government to issue reform.

“We hope the report serves advocacy purposes and puts pressure through international bodies like the IAC to the Jamaican government to hopefully implement change,” Hwang said. “And seeing first-hand how the report was received at the hearing made me realize the importance and power of advocacy on the enforcement of human rights.”

Since the hearing, Carillo and his students have continued promoting the study and plan to submit it to United Nations.

Carrillo hopes this study will “promote awareness and international attention as well as change from the Jamaican government itself.”

At bottom, this exercise was about accountability,” Carrillo said, “and to have an impact on policy.”

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