GCL – The death penalty is a flagrant violation of human rights

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On Human Rights Day, Saturday 10 December, 2022, the Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) urges Caribbean leaders and citizens in our region, to reflect on the fact that the theme this year: Dignity, Freedom and Justice for All, is in keeping with GCL’s goal of achieving regional/global abolition of the death penalty.

 

The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. The use of the death penalty is not consistent with promoting the dignity of offenders.

 

GCL believes that society has a right to protect itself from persons who commit heinous crimes and offenders must be held accountable.

 

However, we believe that non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect society from offenders.

 

To date, 170 States have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty either in law or in practice. There are 55 retentionist countries in the world.

 

According to Amnesty International, in 2021 most known executions took place in China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

 

13 countries in the Greater Caribbean are retentionist: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Guatemala, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Grenada is considered abolitionist in practice.

 

Leela Ramdeen, Chair of GCL, states: “If we wish to promote Justice for All, then we must recognise that the death penalty violates the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

 

The death penalty tramples upon the dignity of the human person.

 

If my neighbour’s dignity is trampled upon, mine becomes tarnished, since we are all inter-connected. Let us not sacrifice the values we seek to protect”.

 

Globally, the trend is moving away from the death penalty.

 

At the 8th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, held in Berlin, Germany in November 2022, it was recognised that the more and more African countries are leading the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.

 

It is time that we in the Greater Caribbean get on the right side of history as it relates to the death penalty; especially since most countries in the Greater Caribbean have some form of de facto moratorium.

 

The last hanging in our region took place on December 19, 2008, when Charles la Place was hanged in St Kitts and Nevis.

 

The number of death sentences and countries imposing such sentences in the Caribbean are at an historical low, with two sentences in Trinidad and Tobago and one sentence in Guyana in 2021.

 

During this year, only Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago have imposed death sentences.

 

GCL stands in solidarity with the victims of crime and their families and urges countries in our region to find more effective ways to support them.

 

GCL supports an ethic of respect for ALL life. This is why GCL’s motto reflects this: “Stop crime, not lives!” We believe in punishing crimes, but saving lives, ALL lives.

 

Our vision of building safe, just, and peaceful communities must not lead us to lose our humanity by hanging on to colonial laws that lead us to treat persons in inhuman and degrading ways.

 

“The death penalty has plagued our statute books for too long. It is time that it be struck from the record.

 

Societies continue to champion democracy, human rights and freedoms, yet cling to colonial penalties. As young people, we demand the needed change from our politicians.

 

We call on them to revise how persons are punished for crimes and demand a more modern, holistic and practical approach – with a shift away from retribution to restoration/transformation,” states Khaleem Ali, a member of GCL’s Executive Committee.

 

On Human Rights Day 2022, GCL calls for a new national dialogue in our region about how we deal with crime and violence; how we restore respect for law and life; and how we protect and rebuild communities.

 

In this dialogue, we remind everyone of the wisdom contained in the words of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who rightly said: “There is no justice in killing in the name of justice, and no godliness in exacting vengeance.”

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