AQ: What do you see as the way
Gomes: Our starting point has
got to be the individual. So we
keep asking people to challenge
their assumptions and see the
victims of police excesses and
abuse as persons rather than as
just numbers. Police action and
corruption have distanced [the
security forces] from the public and,
in turn, fueled the rise in crime.
This type of police approach has
brought major costs to society.
AQ: The OAS Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights visited Jamaica in December to investigate the high incidence of
extra-judicial killings. How effective was the visit?
Gomes: Very good. This was the
first time in 14 years that the Commission had visited the English-speaking Caribbean, and they were
surprised to learn how bad the situation was in certain instances.
We pushed hard for the visit to
happen. One of the challenges we
still face is that people’s idea of Jamaica is “no problem, man.” So
the situation here was being overlooked in the international community, and for that reason, in
2001, we started taking cases to
the Inter-American Commission.
We’ve now finished two reports on
impunity for police killings, looking at the factors that allow it to
persist and [exploring] the depth
of the problem. We are hoping that
the Commission’s final report will
photograph by alty benjamin
be enough of an embarrassment to
keep the momentum for change
going. It will likely be out in time
for the Commission’s fall session.
AQ: What type of response have
you gotten from the Jamaican government?
Gomes: It has varied—both from
the government and society. Initially there was a great deal of hostility and suspicion, and we were
called stooges of the political opposition. But over time we have
gained more legitimacy—
primarily because we stay focused and
respectful, but firm. A change in
government has also resulted in a
greater emphasis being placed on