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The BBC's David Willis
"The army is now maintaining a fragile peace in the Jamaican capital "
 real 56k

Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 21:52 GMT 22:52 UK
Rights groups condemn Jamaica police
Kingston
Life is slowly returning to normal in Kingston
The deaths of at least 28 people in violence on the streets of the Jamaican capital Kingston have turned the spotlight on the country's police force.

Critics say that rioting over the weekend, which began after a police raid on Saturday, was inflamed by police overreaction.


You cannot just stick a weapon out of a door and shoot it

Jamaicans for Justice
Calm was eventually restored after troops backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and armoured vehicles moved in to restore order after three days of fighting.

Although Jamaican authorities and residents have given conflicting versions of the violence, rights groups have accused the police of heavy-handedness in dealing with the trouble.

"We saw all sorts of images on television of officers hiding behind doors and just firing off automatic weapons indiscriminately," the chairwoman of Jamaicans for Justice, Carolyn Gomes, told the French news agency AFP.

"You cannot just stick a weapon out of a door and shoot it," she said, adding that such tactics would undoubtedly erode efforts to improve community relations with the police.

Police killings

Jamaicans for Justice say about 140 people still die at the hands of the police every year, despite a fall from a peak of 380 in the 1980s.

Kingston
Burned out vehicles litter the streets
Human rights group Amnesty International has also singled out Jamaica as having the highest per capita number of police killings per year.

Security officials say they were engaged in running gun battles with armed men firing AK-47 and M16 machine guns during Saturday, and were forced to moved into the Tivoli Gardens area to regain control.

On Monday, Prime Minister PJ Patterson blamed "criminal elements" for the violence, and said the government would act "very swiftly" to restore order.

Four policemen were killed during the clashes, which took place in a district which is a stronghold of the opposition Labour Party.

'Random sniper fire'

Labour Party leader Edward Seaga has said that the police raids were aimed at hurting his supporters.

Jamaican APV
The army was deployed to restore order
Some local people have also claimed that they came under random police sniper fire during the fighting.

Police Commissioner Frances Forbes has promised an investigation into the violence, and also into allegations that detainees were beaten and mistreated while in police custody.

On the streets of Kingston, residents are trying to return to normal after soldiers cleared the last of the debris of roadblocks and burned-out vehicles.

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See also:

11 Jul 01 | Americas
Army quells Jamaica unrest
10 Jul 01 | Americas
Gun battles shake Jamaica
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blairs to visit Jamaica despite violence
10 Jul 01 | Americas
Jamaica seeks help to stop violence
29 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Jamaica
29 Mar 01 | Americas
Timeline: Jamaica
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