Categorized | National News

OAS Makes Death Penalty Demand

By K. Quincy Parker

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – the human rights arm of the Organisation of American States (OAS) – is urging The Bahamas and other countries in the region to abolish the death penalty, or at least impose a moratorium on the practice.

The IACHR has just released a report entitled, “The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restrictions to Abolition.”

In the report, the IACHR detailed the results of its examination into the death penalty situation in nine member states during the last 15 years and called on The Bahamas and the other countries involved (Jamaica, Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Guyana, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States) to end the practice.

In a statement accompanying the release of the publication, The IACHR said, “Taking into account standards and developments in the region, and in light of the objective of gradually eliminating the death penalty in the Inter-American system, the Commission urges the OAS member states that still have the death penalty to abolish it or, at least, to impose a moratorium on its application.”

The Commission also called for member states to ratify the Protocol to the American Convention to Abolish the Death Penalty and refrain from any measure that would expand the application of the death penalty or reintroduce it.

The IACHR cited the restrictions and specific prohibitions regarding application of the death penalty found in regional instruments of protection of human rights and a “global tendency towards the abolition of the death penalty” in support of the call.

“Of particular importance have been the advances related to the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, that is, when this is imposed after a conviction for a crime without the opportunity for presenting or considering mitigating circumstances,” the IACHR said.

“…There has been progress in the elimination of the mandatory aspect of the death penalty in the majority of the countries of the Caribbean. The IACHR expects that additional progress will be made in this direction until its repeal in all the countries of the region.”

The call by the IACHR reflects against the background of the formation of the new Constitutional Review Committee announced by Prime Minister Perry Christie in early August.

One of the committee’s duties will be to recommend whether The Bahamas should retain and enforce the death penalty.
The death penalty is an issue of surpassing interest in The Bahamas, with sharply drawn battle lines in a fierce debate. The penalty has not been carried out in The Bahamas since David Mitchell was executed in 2000.

A new wrinkle was introduced into the debate when the Privy Council quashed the death sentence handed down to Maxo Tido. The Council ruled that despite the brutality of the murder for which Tido had been convicted, the mandatory death sentence should not have been handed down.

The matter even became a campaign issue in the 2012 General Election. It continues to be a hot-button topic in national debate, with even Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis asserting his support for hanging.

In its Charter for Governance, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) promised to initiate a special unit – presumably in the Office of the Attorney General – to fast-track death penalty appeals in preparation for execution of the ultimate penalty.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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