Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Foreign Office Shares Emails on UK Gay
Consul's Murder in Jamaica

My Freedom of Information Act request filed in December with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), for any documents related to the murder of honorary consul John Terry, has produced 49-pages of files.

They consist of emails to and from press officials, grappling with the death of Terry in Jamaica in early September. The exchanges primarily deal with expressing condolences to Terry's ex-wife and family, updates on the investigation, and his funeral.

But several of the emails reveal how the FCO developed a strategy for the gay angles inherent to the case, and how to contextualize questions posed by reporters regarding homo-hatred in Jamaica.

I'm not happy at all that someone in the FCO press office wanted to steer a reporter away from delving into and writing about the connection between Terry's murder and rabid hatred of gays in Jamaica. Needless to say, that angle has received coverage.

All that aside, I wish to make the point that this the latest rapid turn-around with the FCO, after receiving a request from me. In general, the FCO has released documents responsive to my FOIA requests within 4-6 weeks. I should receive such service from the FBI!

Below is the text of the emails. I've posted the letter from the FCO explaining why a few documents were withheld, due to an open investigation in Jamaica, along with the gay-specific emails. Click here to read those files. At the very bottom, is an image of one of the actual emails.

September 14, 2009

With a link apparently emerging between Terry's death and human rights issues, the Minister is keen to keep abreast of the investigation and for us to be able to marshall if necessary, and in due course, information about what we're doing in the Caribbean to support progress on human rights.

September 14, 2009

Called by Economist correspondent in Caribbean who has been asked for an article, in the light of what is suspected to be the homophobically-motivated killing of John Terry, on homophobia in Jamaica.

Standard structure of:
-A problem for a while, including within Jamaican authorities ([Correspondent] pointed to examples of leniency shown to the accused who say they thought the victim was gay).
- What's the response? Is anyone doing anything about it?
- What does the future hold?

He would like:
a) an update on how we see it. Do we acknowledge there is a problem?
b) details of anything we're doing to tackle it.
c) ideally, a chat with the Minister on background with a few choice quotes agreed afterwards.

What we want/ought to do:
- Highlight the work we're doing on human rights in general, region-wide
- Avoid crusading minister / Britain-wants-to-turn us gay stories.

I've asked [name redacted] to come up with policy line (regionwide, begins with human rights in broadest sense).
Example of broad HR work.
Also includes LGBT rights in e.g. Jamaica. A couple of examples: One from Jamaica, one from elsewhere.

September 15, 2009

We would suggest caution before the Minister commits to taking this on. Although we can do our best to steer The Economist away from making linkages between John Terry's murder and homophobia in Jamaica/the Caribbean, high profile comment could prove particularly unhelpful at this time and could even threaten the investigation. [...]

Our thoughts on lines to take are:

- Cannot comment on specifics of John Terry care. Following developments, Jamaican police still investigating and sub judice at this point. [...]

- Our close relationship with the Caribbean means that we can and do raise a range of human rights issues with governments in the region as often as we can.

- This includes LGBT rights, including with Jamaican government. [...]

On LGBT/Jamaica in particular:

- We have worked for a number of years with human rights groups in Jamaica (especially Jamaicans for Justice and Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights) and including LGBT lobby (J-Flag). Discuss wide range of issues - police killings, death penalty and LGBT rights.

The investigation here is fluid and a homophobic motive is not the No. 1 angle at present. We need to avoid being seen to promote speculation that might prejudice the investigation - to say nothing of potentially undermining our duty of care and confidentiality to the Terry family.

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