NEW YORK, February 2, 2008 – A
homophobic mob attack in Jamaica that left one man severely injured and
another missing and feared dead shows yet again that authorities must take
urgent action against violence and hatred, Human Rights Watch said
This incident is the latest in a
string of homophobic mob violence over the last year, including an attack on
mourners in a church.
“Roving mobs attacking innocent
people and staining the streets with blood should shame the nation’s
leaders,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
“Gays and lesbians in Jamaica face
violence at home, in public, even in a house of worship, and official
silence encourages the spread of hate.”
On the evening of January 29, a
group of men approached a house where four males lived in the central
Jamaican town of Mandeville, and demanded that they leave the community
because they were gay, according to human rights defenders who spoke with
Later that evening, a mob returned
and surrounded the house.
The four men inside called the
police when they saw the crowd gathering; the mob started to attack the
house, shouting and throwing bottles. Those in the house called police again
and were told that the police were on the way. Approximately half an hour
later, 15-20 men broke down the door and began beating and slashing the
Human rights defenders who spoke to
the victims also reported that police arrived half an hour after the mob had
broken into the house – 90 minutes after the men first called for help. One
of the victims managed to flee with the mob pursuing.
A Jamaican newspaper reported that
blood was found at the mouth of a nearby pit, suggesting he had fallen
inside or may have been killed nearby. The police escorted the three other
victims away from the scene; two of them were taken to the hospital. One of
the men had his left ear severed, his arm broken in two places, and his
spine reportedly damaged.
The attack on these men echoes
another incident in the same town on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007.
Approximately 100 men gathered
outside a church where 150 people were attending the funeral of a gay man.
According to mourners, the crowd broke the windows with bottles and
shouted: “We want no battyman [gay] funeral here. Leave or else we’re going
to kill you. We don’t want no battyman buried here in Mandeville.”
Several mourners inside the church
called the police to request protection. After half an hour, three police
But instead of protecting the
mourners, police socialized with the mob, laughing along at the situation.
A highway patrol car subsequently arrived, and one of the highway patrol
officers reportedly told the churchgoers, “It’s full time this needs to
happen. Enough of you guys.”
The highway patrol officers then
drove off. The remaining officers at the scene refused to intervene when
the mob threatened the mourners with sticks, stones, and batons as they
tried to leave the service.
Only when several gay men among the
mourners took knives from their cars for self-defence did police reportedly
take action by firing their guns into the air. Officers stopped gay men
from leaving and searched their vehicles, but did not restrain or detain
members of the mob.
“While Jamaican police have begun
to reach out to gay and lesbian communities, this change hasn’t reached many
police stations where protection remains an illusion,” said Rebecca
Schleifer, advocate on HIV/AIDS and human rights at Human Rights Watch.
“These horrifying attacks should
galvanize officials to protect all Jamaicans against violence, regardless of
who they are.”
Two other mob attacks last year
reinforced the fears of gay and lesbian Jamaicans. On April 2, 2007, a
crowd in Montego Bay attacked three men alleged to be gay who were attending
The men took to a stage to dance
during the revelry, but the mob began throwing bottles and stones at them.
Witnesses said the crowd chased the men down the street, slashed one man
with knives and beat him with a manhole cover.
According to local press reports,
at least 30 or 40 people beat another man as he sought refuge in a bar,
tearing his clothes from him and striking him as he bled severely from a
In this case, police did intervene
in an attempt to protect the men, but were overpowered by the mob. They
were able to transport at least one victim to the hospital only after backup
forces arrived more than 20 minutes later.
On February 14, 2007, a mob in
Kingston attacked four men, including the co-chair of t the Jamaica Forum
for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (JFLAG).
The men took refuge in a store in
Tropical Plaza on Constant Spring Road in Kingston, while a crowd of at
least 200 people gathered outside, calling for the men to be beaten to death
because they were gay.
The men called local police, as
well as Human Rights Watch. When officers arrived, instead of protecting
them, they verbally abused the victims, calling them “nasty battymen,” and
struck one in the face, head, and stomach.
They took the men to Halfway Tree
Police Station in Kingston, but refused to take their complaints and ordered
them never to return to the station.
In 2007, Human Rights Watch wrote
to then-Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and Peter Phillips, minister of
national security, calling for an investigation into all the reported
violence, as well as protection of witnesses from threats or reprisals.
Human Rights Watch has received no
response from the government to any of this correspondence.
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Posted: 2 February 2008 at
00:00 (UK time)