KINGSTON, Jamaica February 2021 - Public Defender, Arlene Harrison Henry, says the ‘Know Your Rights’ Campaign will assist persons to know what to do in particular circumstances and calls on Jamaicans to pay keen attention to the campaign messages.
Speaking at a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’, the Public Defender explained that the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) has partnered with the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) to execute the ‘Everybody Have Rights, Know Yuh Rights, Report Violations Now’ campaign, which is expected to continue throughout 2021.
Mrs. Harrison Henry said that at the OPD it is recognised that each individual has rights and inherent dignity by virtue of being a human being.
“That inherent dignity contains in it bundles of rights – the right to be treated equitably and fairly, non-discriminatory treatment, the right to health and reasonable healthcare,” she pointed out.
“Persons must know that when you are taken up by the police ask for your duty counsel. The law provides that when you are picked up by the police you are entitled to have counsel, an attorney-at-law. You do not have to answer any questions except in the presence of your lawyer. Everybody must know this,” the Public Defender added.
The Public Defender emphasised that if your house is going to be searched, the police must reasonably suspect that there is something in your house in which they have an interest, like a gun, stolen goods, or a trafficked human being.
“There must be reasonable suspicion of that,” she said, while pointing out that door-by-door search of a community is not permitted in Jamaican law.
Mrs. Harrison Henry also noted that a homeowner or occupant has a right to be present and to watch everything that police or soldiers do when your home is being searched.
“You also have a right to know why a police officer would want you to enter one of their vehicles or why your liberty is being restricted,” she explained.
These are just some of the rights that are highlighted in the NFPB/OPD campaign. The initiative has three primary objectives – to increase knowledge of basic human rights, empower Jamaicans to report human rights violations, and to promote a human rights-based approach to service delivery.
It focuses on four specific rights – three from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which is an amendment to the Jamaican Constitution in 2011, and one from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
These are the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to equitable and humane treatment by any public authority in the exercise of any function; the right of everyone to protection from search of the person and property, respect for and protection of private and family life; protection of other property and of communication; and the right to health.
Mrs. Harrison Henry said that the synergy between the two organisations is clear, as the NFPB deals with reproductive health rights, and the Office of the Public Defender deals with broad human rights matters.
She added that her office has been very pleased to journey with the NFPB on the campaign, and that the journey has been “nothing but good”.
The Public Defender said the NFPB team has been excellent at working out the technical details of how to do the campaign and testing it in different groups.