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Amnesty International calls for removal of death penalty

Amnesty International called on countries in the English-speaking Caribbean to formally remove the death penalty from their laws and noted that there has been no execution in the region for 10 years.

“… Only half of the 12 English-speaking Caribbean countries have imposed new death sentences since the last man was executed in Saint Kitts and Nevis at the end of 2008,” the group said in statement.

“Five countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica and Saint Lucia – commuted their remaining death sentences in the past five years (2013–2017), reporting empty death rows and leaving a minority of countries to carry the weight of the death penalty in the Americas region, together with the USA.

The statement added, “As of the end of 2017, over 96 percent of all those on death row in the English-speaking Caribbean were held in three countries alone, Barbados (13 percent), Guyana (32 percent) and Trinidad and Tobago (52 percent) – countries that retain the mandatory death penalty in their legislation.

“International law prohibits the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, as it removes from judges the possibility of considering any mitigating factors at sentencing in relation to the circumstances of the offense and of the offender,” Amnesty said.

The Bahamas held its last execution in 2000.

In 2006, the Privy Council ruled that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional and left the door open for trial judges to determine what sentence to hand down to murder convicts.

In 2011, the Privy Council upheld the murder conviction of Maxo Tido in the brutal killing of a 16-year-old girl in 2002, but ruled that the crime did not warrant execution.

Even though they called the murder appalling, the law lords of the Privy Council determined that the murder did not fall into the “worst of the worst” or the “rarest of the rare” category of murder.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has made it clear that he is a “strong advocate of hanging”.

“I have no reservation about hanging you and moving on,” he said earlier this year.

End death penalty

According to the Amnesty report, Antigua and Barbuda held its last execution in 1991; Barbados held its last execution 1984; Belize held its last in 1985; Dominica held its last in 1986; Grenada held its last in 1978; Guyana held its last in 1997; Jamaica held its last in 1988; Saint Kitts and Nevis held its last in 2008; Saint Lucia held its last in 1995; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines held its last in 1995; and Trinidad and Tobago held its last execution in 1999.

“Ten years ago, on December 19, 2008, the authorities of Saint Kitts and Nevis carried out what was to become the last execution in the Americas, outside the USA,” Amnesty International said.

“This anniversary, which follows on from the observance on November 2 of 25 years since a key judicial decision that put a brake on the implementation of death sentences in the region, offers an opportunity for reflection on the present state of the death penalty in the English-speaking Caribbean.

“Trends on the use of this punishment point to the inevitability of its abolition.

“On the occasion of this anniversary, Amnesty International renews its call on governments in the English-speaking Caribbean to take prompt steps towards consigning the death penalty to history once and for all.”

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018. Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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