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Author Topic: Jamaica's police at last being called to account for killings of civilians  (Read 155 times)
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December 02, 2015, 01:04:50 PM

Akieem Stewart, 22, is one of 95 people killed by Jamaican police this year. Now independent investigators are seeking to bring the alleged killers to justice

Akieem Stewart was sitting under a mango tree in the backyard of a neighbour’s house writing a text message on his mobile phone when he came face to face with a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Within seconds he was dead.

Stewart was 22, and had been about to take up a post as a hotel manager – his first job since finishing college. That Sunday in March, his mother Latoya Brown was at work at the Ministry of Health in the city.

Halfway down the street his grandmother had just returned from church to the family home, one of a collection of low-rise concrete houses in the Elletson Flats neighbourhood on the northern outskirts of the Jamaican capital.

“The last time I saw him was in the morning when I woke up,” said Brown. “His girlfriend had done his hair, he was saying ‘how does this look mum?’ I told him he had to get a haircut because he was starting work.”

At around 3pm, Brown’s phone rang. “There was screaming in the background, it was my mum trying to say something, then the phone went dead. Then my mum rang back, she said; ‘Akieem got shot up, him got shot up and it look like him dead.’”

Stewart’s grandmother Sylvia Morris clasps her hands to her face and shakes her head as she points out the spot where Stewart was killed: a small blue bench near a rickety chicken coop.

“When I saw him after church, he told me to make him some peas and chicken, and some chips,” said Morris. “Then he went down to see him friend, but he wasn’t there so he was texting him. In a few minutes I heard four shots fired. I ran out and could see a jeep in the street. Dem police told me, don’t go there granny but I ran round the corner to the backyard. He was sitting there slumped on the bench. I saw him drop,” she said. “Then one of the police threw him in the van, the other picked up the shells off the ground and threw them in the bush, right in the bush.”

Stewart is one of 93 civilians killed by the Jamaican police this year. In a country of 2.8 million people which is awash with guns and where powerful gangs have taken over inner-city areas so neglected by the state they have no running water or sanitation, the Jamaican police have a reputation for being one of the deadliest security forces in the world.

Over the past decade they have gunned down about 200 people a year, to the condemnation of human rights groups across the world. They include a woman who was seven months pregnant – shot in the head after she used what the police said was indecent language – and a 14-year-old boy killed a week before Stewart in the same neighbourhood.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the police account of Stewart’s death is different from that of his family. In a report seen by the Guardian, officers said they were following information that armed men were in a house in Elletston Flats, when they were fired on by a group of men. They returned fire and the men fled, except one – Stewart – who was found suffering from gunshot wounds. A firearm was recovered from the scene, the police report states.

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