KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – The UN’s refugee agency on Tuesday called for a full investigation into the abduction and slaying of a human rights activist that has increased worry over crime in this Caribbean country.
Attorney Clover Graham, who was Jamaica’s honorary liaison for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, was found at daybreak Sunday with her throat slashed in tall weeds by the Caymanas Polo Club just outside of the capital of Kingston.
UNHCR regional representative Vincent Cochetel described Graham as a “passionate human rights activist” who worked with the UN agency since 1998 by counseling asylum seekers and helping Haitian refugees find shelter and jobs.
“She was always ready to give her time, energy, legal expertise and even her personal money to assist destitute refugees and asylum seekers in Jamaica,” Cochetel said.
Deputy Police Commissioner Glenmore Hinds said detectives are working to establish a motive in the 56-year-old woman’s slaying. There have been no arrests.
Four years ago, Graham’s son and his girlfriend were also found in a field with their throats slashed after they brought crutches and other medical supplies to men they had accidentally injured in a road crash. Two men were recently convicted of those murders, which were dubbed the “good Samaritan” slayings.
The killing of Graham has sharpened crime fears in this violence-wracked Caribbean country of less than 3 million inhabitants. Most of the violence takes place in rough slums, with tourist resorts largely crime-free.
A U.N. study on the Caribbean released earlier this year said Jamaica has had the world’ third-highest murder rate over the past decade, with about 60 murders per 100,000 people. Last year, Jamaica had 1,125 slayings, a roughly 22 percent drop from the 1,442 killings in 2010. A record 1,683 people were killed in 2009.
The Jamaican-born Graham was also a citizen of the United Kingdom, where she lived for many years. In Jamaica, she lived in a middle class section of Spanish Town, a southern city where violent gangs are deeply entrenched and authorities impose frequent curfews.
Besides her work with the UN’s refugee agency, Graham was employed at a legal aid clinic at the University of the West Indies’ law school and also lectured at the island’s University of Technology.
Fara Brown, a colleague at the Norman Manley Law School, said she was deeply shocked by her friend’s killing, though she said Graham would not want people to dwell on the “horrific aspects of her demise,” but instead celebrate the life of service that she lived.
“She was somebody who had really dedicated herself to the betterment of her fellow citizens. She honestly made it a point of duty to help everyone she could and lived her life that way,” Brown said Tuesday.
The UNHCR said Graham is survived by husband Rex McKenzie and their two daughters, Arusha, 26, and Zakiya, 23, who is eight months pregnant.
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