No plans for death penalty referendum at this time

Despite stating that he expected the government to deal with the issue of capital punishment this year, Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday the government currently has no plans to hold a referendum to enact constitutional changes to preserve capital punishment at this time.

“The government has the option to put issues related to the penalty to Bahamians in a referendum, but has thus far not decided to do either,” Bethel told The Nassau Guardian.

“The question could be related to the strengthening of the law or otherwise, such as to abolish.”

Despite the recent decrease in crime, Bethel also stated that the government supports the death penalty remaining a possible deterrent.

“Seeking the death penalty remains an option, which is open to prosecutors who can charge a form of murder which attracts a penalty of death,” Bethel said.

“If the jury convicts and the judge is of the view that the circumstances so warrant he may sentence accordingly.”

Statistics released by the police last week show that between January 1 and June 30, 2019, crime across The Bahamas decreased by 17 percent compared to the same period last year.

The numbers also show that murders decreased by 17 percent in the same period.

While Bethel said “the government has not decided to hold any referendum at this time,” he said the government is aware of potential international backlash.

“The views of loud elements and strong opinions in the international community are noted and respected, but The Bahamas remains a sovereign state,” he said.

In an interview with The Nassau Guardian last July, Bethel said due to dealing with issues such as drafting bills regarding the Financial Action Task Force requirements and the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization, he expected the government would not be able to deal with the issue of capital punishment until this year.

“Coming into the new year, (2019) I think we will have a little more flexibility, one hopes, to really deal with some of the agenda legislation, meaning laws that reflect more clearly the policy commitments that the governing party was elected on, among them being laws to address this question about capital punishment,” he said.

These comments came after the prime minister reiterated that he remains “a strong advocate of hanging”.

Earlier this year, French non-governmental organization Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM) urged the Bahamian government to abolish the death penalty.

The United Nations and other multi-national organizations have also called for The Bahamas to eliminate the death penalty.

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