Free Tommy Lee Sparta

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Reggae and dancehall artist, Tommy Lee Sparta (Leroy Russell Junior), is currently being detained in Jamaica under the country’s “State of Public Emergency” (SOE) Act. This allows law enforcement to hold individuals for up to 90 days.

On Tuesday, July 7, 2020, Tommy Lee Sparta's lawyer, Ernest Smith, however told the Jamaica Observer: “[Tommy] has been taken into custody for the purpose of interviews with C-TOC [Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch] and OCID [Organized Crime Investigations Division], and other agencies of the State...They have no charge against him; they want to question him. He has not been told anything of any offence he has committed. He has not been told that he is inciting anything.” 

This violates the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (1988), namely that "a detained person and his counsel, if any, shall receive prompt and full communication of any order of detention, together with the reasons therefor" (Principle 11, Section 2). 

On Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Smith provided this update, again to the Jamaica Observer: "I was there from 11 o’clock today (yesterday). There was no interviews, no question-and-answer, and Superintendent [Vernon] Ellis, who we made the arrangements with, was conveniently absent from his office. I called [Tommy] 27 times and sent him text messages saying: ‘What is going on? We had a firm arrangement for MOCA [Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency] and C-TOC [Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime] to interview my client."

This is a further violation of the aforementioned Body of Principles, namely "the right of a detained or imprisoned person to be visited by and to consult and communicate, without delay or censorship and in full confidentiality, with his legal counsel", which  may not be suspended or restricted save in exceptional circumstances, to be specified by law or lawful regulations, when it is considered indispensable by a judicial or other authority in order to maintain security and good order" (Principle 19, Section 3). 

In light of such violations, contravening high and well-established UN standards, the current detainment of Tommy Lee Sparta is unjust and an offense against the person—notwithstanding exceptions to the Jamaican constitution, regulated by the SOE Act and with respect to detained individuals. Thus, we the undersigned demand his full and immediate release. 

Finally, Tommy Lee Sparta's wrongful detainment is also an insult against the larger reggae and dancehall community that has, internationally, embraced Tommy and his music as a major source of strength and inspiration. His mistreatment at the hands of the Jamaican state is wholly at odds with the exemplary artist and person they know him to be.