Govt granted waiver for detention of 5 Jamaican fishermen by US Coast Guard

by June 18th, 2019

The Foreign Affairs Ministry says it granted a waiver in accordance with the Ship Rider Agreement which allowed for the detention of five Jamaican fishermen by US Coast Guard in 2017.

Four of the five have brought a lawsuit against the united states alleging they were treated badly.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, filed a lawsuit against the United States Coast Guard on behalf of the four Jamaicans who were allegedly detained without due process on four coast guard ships for over a month.

Questions have been raised about whether the agreement was breached. Among other things the Ship Rider Agreement allows for law enforcement officials from the US to board vessels and apprehend persons in Jamaican waters. The agreement is aimed at targeting the movement of illicit drugs through Jamaican territorial waters from South America to the United States.

In giving an update today, (June 18), the Ministry in a statement says in 2017, waiver of jurisdiction was requested and granted pursuant to the 1997 agreement between the United States and Jamaica.

It adds that standard protocols under the agreement were followed in that the waiver was granted based on information provided to the government regarding suspicion of trafficking in contraband, the location of the vessel, the Jamaican registration of the vessel and nationality of the crew; and on the conditions that the health of the Jamaican citizens were guaranteed; the men would have a right to consular access and representation, in keeping with international law as well as US domestic law, unless they expressly declined to avail themselves of these rights; and the men would have the right to legal representation in any criminal cases in the United States.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry states that in an effort to assure the public that appropriate procedures are being followed, to protect the human rights of Jamaicans in respect of ship rider arrangements, the ministry is also in discussions with the United States through its embassy in Kingston.

Meanwhile, the Ministry is also confirming that there is no record of any complaint of mistreatment lodged with the Jamaican government by the five men since the time of their arrest by the US authorities in 2017, including during their deportation from the United States in 2018, when they engaged directly with the staff of the Consulate-General in Miami, nor on their return to Jamaica.

The Ministry adds that its regretted that the family of the men did not report them to the Ministry as missing, as has been done in many prior consular cases.

It is notes that with the allegations of mistreatment coming to its attention it is reiterating the seriousness it accords to promoting and protecting the rights of Jamaicans at home and abroad at all times as an essential pillar of its foreign and domestic policy.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry states that having become aware of this current case (Weir v. US) before the court in the United States, it will monitor the process, which appears to benefit from strong legal and institutional support.