Caribbean Gov­ern­ments Urged to Abol­ish Death Penalty

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Toni Ni­cholas

Sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions came out of a fo­rum or­ga­nized by the Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion against the Death Penalty held in Guyana last week. The one day event was held on Tues­day Novem­ber 24, 2015.

The con­fer­ence, which brought to­gether twenty five par­tic­i­pants from Europe and the Caribbean, in­cluded hu­man rights activists, lawyers and in­ter­est groups. Sev­eral so­lu­tions were agreed to­ward the ul­ti­mate goal in the re­gion which is to elim­i­nate the death penalty al­to­gether. There are many Caribbean is­lands, in­clud­ing Saint Lucia, that still have the death penalty on their law books even though there ap­pears to be a mora­to­rium on the mea­sure.

How­ever, gov­ern­ments in the Caribbean are be­ing urged to “for­mal­ize the un­of­fi­cial mora­to­rium of the death penalty in those coun­tries in the Caribbean re­gion that re­tain cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment; and re­spect in­ter­na­tional and re­gional hu­man rights law and stan­dards re­lat­ing to the death penalty.”

The death penalty, ac­cord­ing to the fo­rum, vi­o­lates the right to life, which hap­pens to be the most ba­sic of all hu­man rights. It also vi­o­lates the right not to be sub­jected to tor­ture and other cruel, in­hu­mane or de­grad­ing treat­ment or pun­ish­ment. Fur­ther­more, the death penalty un­der­mines hu­man dig­nity, which is in­her­ent to ev­ery hu­man be­ing.

The con­fer­ence held the view that the risk of ex­e­cut­ing in­no­cent peo­ple ex­ists in any jus­tice sys­tem. There have been, and al­ways will be, cases of ex­e­cu­tions of in­no­cent peo­ple. No mat­ter how de­vel­oped a jus­tice sys­tem, it will al­ways re­main sus­cep­ti­ble to hu­man fail­ure. Un­like prison sen­tences, the death penalty is ir­re­versible - one of the strong ar­gu­ments put for­ward.

It was also held that the death penalty is of­ten used in a dis­pro­por­tion­ate man­ner against the poor, mi­nori­ties and mem­bers of racial, eth­nic, po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious groups.

Many of the pan­elists con­curred that the death penalty does not serve as a de­ter­rent to crime in coun­tries where it is ap­plied. It was of­ten used as a knee-jerk re­ac­tion to crime, in some in­stances by politi­cians to feed pub­lic out­cry. To this end, pub­lic sup­port for the death penalty, it was felt, does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that tak­ing away the life of a hu­man be­ing by the state is right.

The fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tion re­port com­ing out of the fo­rum urges gov­ern­ments to: - For­mal­ize the un­of­fi­cial mora­to­rium of the death penalty in coun­tries in the Caribbean re­gion that re­tain cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment; - Re­spect in­ter­na­tional and re­gional hu­man rights law and stan­dards re­lat­ing to the death penalty; - En­gage in con­struc­tive di­a­logue with gov­ern­ments in the Caribbean re­gion as they take steps to­wards even­tual abo­li­tion of the death penalty; - Strengthen the jus­tice sys­tem struc­ture, en­sur­ing that it is suf­fi­ciently re­sourced, that it has the ca­pac­ity of ef­fec­tively in­ves­ti­gat­ing crimes, en­sur­ing that vic­tims are sup­ported, en­sur­ing ad­e­quate le­gal as­sis­tance to vul­ner­a­ble sec­tions of so­ci­ety; - Ad­vanc­ing hu­man rights ed­u­ca­tion as part of the curriculum for cit­i­zen­ship stud­ies.

At­ten­dees from Saint Lucia at the fo­rum were STAR Ed­i­tor Toni Ni­cholas and hu­man rights lawyer Mary Fran­cis.

Marie Yo­lene Giles rep­re­sent­ing a hu­man rights group in Haiti presents a case for the end of the death

penalty.

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