Death penalty in the Caribbean

Carl Remick cremick at
Wed Mar 3 11:50:51 PST 1999

> As far as I know, some Caribbean former colonies have the
> death penalty on
> their statute books, but haven't been able to carry out any
> executions,
> because their highest court of appeal is our House of Lords,
> who won't let
> them. I may be wrong, though.

Here's the latest -- today, from Reuters:

Delays in Death Penalty Cases Anger Leaders in Caribbean

Port of Spain, Trinidad -- Caribbean leaders threatened Tuesday to pull out of an international human rights body in anger over what they view as international obstructions of their use of the death penalty.

Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General Ramesh Maharaj said representatives from Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti, St Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Guyana and Suriname had met with leaders of the Organization of American States on Monday in Peru and had threatened to withdraw from the Inter American Commission on Human Rights if it does not make decisions on appeals by death row inmates more quickly.

In a statement, Maharaj said OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria had met with the delegation and promised to take action.

Caribbean attorneys general and legal affairs ministers had met in Port of Spain in February and recommended that they should collectively withdraw their membership from human rights bodies in order to carry out the death penalty.

The recommendation followed a decision by the British Privy Council -- which still serves as the highest court in most Caribbean states -- to grant a limited stay of execution for two condemned murderers in Trinidad until their petitions were considered by human rights bodies.

But the Caribbean countries maintain that the Privy Council's decision would place an unfair burden on their need to execute prisoners within five years of their sentencing, in accordance with a 1993 Privy Council ruling.

Maharaj said he told Gaviria that the IACHR had disregarded the sovereignty of the Caribbean nations and undermined their national laws.

"We cannot talk about accountability and transparency of governments when within the OAS is an institution which is not accountable, is inefficient and does not deliver timely recommendations," he said.

Capital punishment has been the subject of vigorous debate in the Caribbean in recent years. The region's leaders have angrily condemned pressure from abroad to end executions as an intrusion on national sovereignty. Polls consistently show a majority of Caribbean people favor the death penalty.

[end of story]

Carl Remick

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