Jamaica: IGLHRC Mourns the Death of Jamaican Activist

Contact: Paula Ettelbrick 212/216-1256 Marcelo Ferreyra Latin America/Caribbean Regional Program Coordinator +54 11 49 61 35 31 Buenos Aires, Argentina mferreyra@iglhrc.org The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) mourns the death of long-time friend and colleague, Brian Williamson, a gay activist from Jamaica found murdered in his home in Kingston last week. Brian was a founding member of Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) and one of the country’s most visible and outspoken activists. While initial reports seemed to point to a possible hate-motivated crime, activists in the country are now publicly indicating that robbery may instead have been involved. In any event, IGLHRC staff will continue to reach out to J-FLAG, monitor the police investigation and work with local activists to ensure that a full investigation is conducted. "Brian’s untimely and violent death is tragic under any and all circumstances," said Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "The violent death of such a public activist will always raise our worst fears – that his outspokenness, courage and visibility as a gay human rights activist somehow prompted his murder. We will do all we can to support J-FLAG and other activists in Jamaica to ensure that the police conduct a full investigation into whether his sexual orientation played any role in his murder." Homophobic violence against gay men, in particular, has long been widespread in Jamaica, making Brian’s public visibility and activism uniquely courageous within such a well-preserved climate of fear and intimidation. Despite this climate, which was on display as a crowd reportedly gathered at the crime scene to express its delight at the murder of another "battyman," the local media coverage was sympathetic, a sign of the respect that Williamson had garnered through his years of advocacy. In 2001, IGLHRC awarded J-FLAG a Felipa de Souza Award for its outstanding human rights advocacy and, in particular, for the group’s unsuccessful but unprecedented effort to overturn the country’s sodomy law.