Human rights

Jamaicans mourn the death of human rights defender Nancy Anderson, who worked to help the island’s most vulnerable citizensGlobal Voices

Jamaican Shanique Myrie at the Caribbean Court of Justice, with her lawyer Nancy Anderson in the background. Anderson represented Myrie in this high-profile human rights case, which she won. Photo by Jamaica Gleaner, used with permission.

US-born human rights activist, educator and lawyer Nancy Anderson died on November 29 in Kingston, Jamaica, from a brief illness. A graduate of Michigan State University, the University of London and Norman Manley Law School, Anderson first arrived in Jamaica as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in 1969, spending a year as a teacher at the Ministry of Education. She stayed, the island became her home, and she eventually became a Jamaican citizen. She was admitted to practice as a lawyer in Jamaica in 1981.

Lawyer Nancy Anderson at an embassy workshop a few years ago in Jamaica. Photo by Emma Lewis, used with permission.

Perhaps in keeping with her life and legacy, Anderson died on International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders, as part of the 16 Days of Activism. One of Anderson’s main accomplishments was to help make legal services more widely available to the poor in Jamaica, as director of the Kingston Legal Aid Clinic from 1990 until his death. After a stint in private practice, she became Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council at the Jamaica Department of Justice in 2002.

Making her mark as a compassionate and determined human rights defender, Anderson served as a lawyer at the Jamaican Independent Council for Human Rights, Jamaica’s oldest human rights NGO, from 2003 until her death. In 2020, following a wave of public concern over reports of large numbers of mentally disturbed inmates who had not been released from prison, she joined the chief justice committee tasked with resolving the problem in partnership with the Ministry of National Security:

In 2017, Anderson was physically assaulted by a mentally ill inmate, but said that would not deter her from working. the previous year, she had received the Jamaican Order of Distinction.

Anderson has been involved in a number of important human rights cases in local and regional jurisdictions. She represented Shanique Myrie, who successfully sued the government of Barbados for unlawful detention, in a high-profile case heard by the Caribbean Court of Justice. In addition to serving as an advisor to the Belize Court of Appeal, after being admitted to practice there in 2015, Anderson has contributed to the compilation of legal reports for Trinidad and Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean, and was scheduled to appear before the Jamaican Court of Appeal on the day of his death.

Lawyer and radio talk show host Jodi-Ann Quarrie explained how, as a young lawyer, Anderson opened her eyes to the plight of prisoners deemed “unfit to plead” who were left in the prison system, including the high profile case of Noel Chambers:

A group of women’s rights activists paid tribute to Anderson via WhatsApp, recalling her networking activities with several lobby groups, as well as her support for women’s rights, disability rights and mental health. Prominent lawyer, women’s activist and former Jamaican High Commissioner to the UK Aloun N’Dombet Assamba told Global Voices:

I met Nancy in 1979 while attending Norman Manley Law School. She had been in Jamaica for a few years then. She was associated with [attorneys] Crafton Miller & Co. as a legal clerk throughout our law studies and joined his firm after being called to the bar […] I saw her in London, as she always took her advocacy team to visit me on the way back to Jamaica after their matches. […] She was so proud of her job tutoring the team as part of her law school job. She was a very proud human rights activist […] She applied to become Jamaican because she loved the country and had no plans to return to live in the United States.

Anderson was heavily involved in other areas, including election monitoring. She was Director of Citizens’ Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) from 2000. CAFFE paid tribute to her on Twitter, observe:

Miss Anderson was never afraid to take on difficult tasks or was never hesitant to offer her services free of charge to the poor when the need arose and the cause was worth it.

Anderson’s willingness to serve and share his knowledge knew no bounds. She has served on advisory committees and review tribunals related to HIV / AIDS, drug addiction and witness protection, and served with the Justice Training Institute, chaired by the Chief Justice, from 2010 to 2016.

A young lawyer expressed his admiration for Anderson’s life of service:

Mentoring students has become one of Anderson’s greatest passions. She taught advocacy and ethics at Norman Manley Law School from 2009 until her death, and was particularly involved in the school’s advocacy team, which met with great success as a global laureate. for four consecutive years. She was a judge at the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court competition in Geneva in 2017, and at the Jessup competition of the International Law Students Association in 2018 and July 2021.

On Twitter, there was an immediate wave of emotional tributes from Jamaicans, especially from young lawyers she had mentored and inspired. Many simply remembered her as kind and selfless.

Norman Manley Law School students tweeted:

A media professional paid tribute to her determination:

A young Jamaican from a low-income community shared:

Political scientist and women’s rights activist Leanne Levers noted:

Anderson was modest, never one to show off. One Jamaican summed it up simply:

Although Anderson was not born in Jamaica, her love and dedication to helping the most marginalized of Jamaicans, in addition to guiding and encouraging many young lawyers, attracted her to many, who will be dearly missed as as champion of human rights.