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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

The 1962 Jamaican Constitution established a parliamentary system based on the U.K. model. As chief of state, Queen Elizabeth II appoints a governor general, on the advice of the prime minister, as her representative in Jamaica. The governor general's role is largely ceremonial. Executive power is vested in the cabinet, led by the prime minister.

Parliament is composed of an appointed Senate and an elected House of Representatives. Thirteen Senators are nominated on the advice of the prime minister and eight on the advice of the leader of the opposition. General elections must be held within 5 years of the forming of a new government. The prime minister may ask the governor general to call elections sooner, however. The Senate may submit bills, and it also reviews legislation submitted by the House. It may not delay budget bills for more than 1 month or other bills for more than 7 months. The prime minister and the Cabinet are selected from the Parliament. No fewer than two nor more than four members of the Cabinet must be selected from the Senate.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

Three Jamaican courts handle criminal matters at the trial level. Resident magistrates try lesser offenses (misdemeanors). A Supreme Court judge tries felonies, except for felonies involving firearms, which are tried before a judge of the Gun Court. Defendants have the right to appeal a conviction in any of the three trial courts to the Court of Appeal, which is the highest court in the country. This appeal process results in frequent delays. The Constitution allows the Court of Appeal and the Parliament, as well as defendants in civil and criminal cases, and plaintiffs in civil cases, to refer cases to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom as a final court of appeal.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Jamaican Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in 2001; however, there were serious problems in some areas. Some members of the security forces committed extrajudicial killings. Police and prison guards abused detainees and prisoners. Although the Government moved to investigate incidents of police abuses and punish some of those police involved, continued impunity for police who commit abuses remained a problem. Prison and jail conditions remained poor; overcrowding, brutality against detainees, and poor sanitary conditions were problems. Arbitrary arrest and detention were problems. The Government moved to release hundreds of persons declared mentally unfit to plead and then held without trial. The judicial system was overburdened, and lengthy delays in trials were common. Violence and discrimination against women remained problems. There were cases of societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and members of the Rastafarian religion. Violence against suspected homosexuals occurred. Child labor was a problem. Mob violence against and vigilante killings of those suspected of breaking the law remained a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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