The Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) calls for more hu­mane Liv­ing Con­di­tions for those on Death Row

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

On Oc­to­ber 10, 2018 abo­li­tion­ists around the world ob­served the 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty. This year, the World Day fo­cused on the liv­ing con­di­tions of those sen­tenced to death.

Leela Ramdeen, Chair of The Greater Caribbean fr Life (GCL), stated: “Too of­ten the UN Stan­dard Min­i­mum Rules for the Treat­ment of Pris­on­ers (the Nel­son Man­dela Rules) are ig­nored and many pris­on­ers on death row are con­fined to harsh and in­hu­mane con­di­tions. A re­vised ver­sion of the 1955 Rules was adopted unan­i­mously by the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly on 17 De­cem­ber, 2015. The Rules set out ‘the min­i­mum stan­dards for good prison man­age­ment, in­clud­ing to en­sure the rights of pris­on­ers are re­spected’.”

As the World Coali­tion against the Death Penalty states: “Ac­cord­ing to Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s 2017 an­nual re­port, at least 21,919 peo­ple were known to be un­der a sen­tence of death world­wide at the end of 2017. The Cor­nell Cen­ter on the Death Penalty World­wide es­ti­mates the num­ber of peo­ple sen­tenced to death around the world to be slightly less than 40,000. Although peo­ple on death row are en­ti­tled to the same basic rights and treat­ment con­di­tions as other cat­e­gories of pris­on­ers, as set out in the… Nel­son Man­dela rules, many tes­ti­monies doc­u­ment the in­hu­mane liv­ing con­di­tions that peo­ple sen­tenced to death en­dure.

“Although con­di­tions of de­ten­tion for peo­ple sen­tenced to death vary from one coun­try to an­other, they al­ways af­fect not only the per­son sen­tenced to death, but also their fam­i­lies, rel­a­tives, lawyers, and oth­ers. Peo­ple on death row have very lit­tle contact with their fam­ily and lawyers, as ac­cess to death row is of­ten very lim­ited.”

In­hu­man liv­ing con­di­tions on death rows also in­clude over­crowd­ing, soli­tary con­fine­ment, sub­stan­dard phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal health care, a lack of ac­cess to suf­fi­cient re­li­gious ser­vices and in­suf­fi­cient ac­cess to nat­u­ral light, fresh air and out­door ac­tiv­i­ties as many are con­fined in small cells for up to 23 hours per day. Ariel Dulitzky, di­rec­tor of Texas’ Hu­man Rights Clinic, says: “Any per­son who is kept in soli­tary con­fine­ment for more than 15 days starts to suf­fer men­tal and psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects that can­not be re­versed, and that fits the def­i­ni­tion of tor­ture.”

GCL’s thoughts are that while we all take ac­tion to re­duce crime and ad­dress the needs of vic­tims, let us not lose our hu­man­ity by tram­pling on the dig­nity of those on death rows. This di­min­ishes all of us.

GCL wel­comes the fact that Pope Francis has re­vised the Catholic Cat­e­chism (2267) mak­ing it clear that “the death penalty is in­ad­mis­si­ble be­cause it is an at­tack on the in­vi­o­la­bil­ity and dig­nity of the per­son.”

To­day 142 coun­tries have abol­ished the death penalty in law or prac­tice. GCL asks that we de­vote our en­er­gies to find­ing non-lethal means to hold of­fend­ers ac­count­able for their crimes and more ef­fec­tive/hu­mane ways of build­ing just so­ci­eties; pro­mot­ing re­spect for life and for the rule of law.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, contact Leela Ramdeen, Chair, GCL at gclvdp@gmail.com

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