Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 20th 2015 Contents A9
December 20, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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607 executions in 2014
Latest data from Amnesty International
show that 607 executions were carried out
in 22 countries last year. That figure does
not include people executed in China where
data on the death penalty remains a state
The top five executioners are China, Iran,
Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States.
Belarus, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Jordan,
Pakistan, Singapore and the United Arab
Emirates also carry out executing and public
executions are still being carried out in Iran
and Saudi Arabia.
China, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan executed
people accused of terrorism
At least 2,466 death sentences were
recorded in 55 countries---a 28 per cent
increase over 2013. The seven countries
that executed people in 2013 but did not
carry out death sentences last year were
Bangladesh, Botswana, Indonesia, India,
Kuwait, Nigeria, and South Sudan.
In 1977 when Amnesty International started
campaigning only 16 countries had abolished
the death penalty. Today 140 countries are
abolitionists in law and practice.
From Page A8
The last attempt to resume hangings
in T&T was defeated in February 2011
when a "hanging bill" was guillotined
in the House of Representatives after
it failed to get the support of the then
Opposition People s National Move-
ment. The bill sought to amend the
Constitution to make special provision
with respect to capital offences.
Maharaj: Al-Rawi on right foot
With fresh attempts now being
made to resume hangings, Maharaj
said AG Al-Rawi s actions are similar
to the measures he took to resume
hangings back in 1999.
"I set up a case management unit
which monitored on a regular basis
the passage of murder cases and with
the co-operation of the Chief Justice
had matters expedited. We were able
to meet the deadline and have execu-
tions done, including that of Dole
Chadee and his gang," Maharaj told
the T&T Guardian.
Within six months of initiating this
measure, hangings resumed in T&T,
beginning with Chadee and his accom-
Maharaj said Al-Rawi has "taken a
step in the right direction."
Recalling that he had fought against
the death penalty for many years, he
admitted: "When I became attorney
general I saw the law from the other
Maharaj said if the tracking unit was
properly managed, improvements
made to the police investigating
machinery and a DNA bank initiated,
"the death penalty can be implemented
in six to nine months." However, he
suggested that Al-Rawi monitor oper-
ations and ensure that any obstacles
While Maharaj agrees that death
sentences should be handed down to
individuals found guilty of brutal mur-
ders, he strongly believes the law
should be amended to protect innocent
people from being executed.
Maharaj, who introduced the DNA
Act in 2001, said he was amazed that
14 years later a DNA bank has not
been established to match evidence in
"Also the Forensic Science Centre
still needs overhauling. I passed all the
necessary laws and after that nothing
happened. The past governments just
kept amending the law. I don t know
what is going on. Right now all the
police have as evidence are witnesses
...and you cannot have that if you do
not have an effective witness protec-
tion programme," he said.
A differing view on the death penal-
ty was offered by former high court
judge Herbert Volney who said T&T
should follow other countries that have abolished
the death penalty.
"It s a progressive thing to happen. I have passed
the death penalty in excess of 60 times in my life
and only one of those persons were hanged, that
was Joey Ramiah. I don t think Ramiah was hanged
for the matter which I handed down."
Volney said the death penalty was proven not to
be a deterrent after the hangings of Chadee and his
Death penalty targets the marginalised
At the Guyana conference, Dr Asunta Vivó Cav-
aller, secretary general of the International Com-
mission Against the Death Penalty, said abolition
of the death penalty required political leadership.
She said in countries such as France, Mexico, Mon-
golia and the Philippines, governments were able
to use their prerogative to grant clemency or impose
a moratorium on executions.
"Such actions paved the way for legislative or
constitutional repeal of capital punishment," she
Cavaller said abolition did not mean that those
found guilty of serious crimes were not punished
in proportion to the crime.
"Death penalty is not the answer, though. There s
always the risk of executing innocent people. It vio-
lates the right to life, it s cruel and degrading."
She said the death penalty targets the marginalised,
poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic,
political and religious groups and individuals who
do not have access to defence lawyers.
Fernando Ponz Canto, deputy head of Division
for the Caribbean, European External Action Service,
said in 2015 the EU spent US$50 million to assist
with crime and security in the Caribbean. He said
the EU would not tell Caribbean countries what to
do, but encouraged an exchange of ideas and moving
forward on the basis of good practices.
Lord Navnit Dholakia, of the UK All Party Par-
liamentary Committee on the Abolition of the Death
Penalty, said many countries have realised that the
death sentence has no place in a civilised society.
Dholakia, who has worked extensively in the crim-
inal justice system in the UK, added: "There is no
way in which a government can simply say this is
the public opinion and this is what we must do.
"Public opinion is very fragile. It s not a set par-
ticular view. If people believe in you as a leader
then you find that people s opinion moves towards
you. To convince them it moves the other way
around. The point I will make again and again is
if you do not ensure proper leadership then you
have a problem on your hands. You have to be tough
and say this is what we are going to do."
He said there has been substantial progress towards
universal abolition of the death penalty.
"Revenge alone is not justice," he said, adding
that justice goes beyond punishment and seeks "a
genuine recognition by the wrongdoers of their
Melinda Janki, executive director of the Justice
Institute, said the death penalty was not a deterrent
and up to 2011 there had been more than 1,600
murders in Barbados, the Bahamas, Guyana, T&T
Raphael Trotman, Guyana s minister of Gover-
nance, weighing in on the matter, said: "Whether
we are prepared to agree and accept it or not, the
incontrovertible and inconvenient truth is that one
person s justice can be another s injustice. One per-
son s way of justice can be entirely different from
the other s. How do we decide, and who gets to
decide what justice is and how it should be admin-
Risk of executing the innocent
"Death penalty is not the answer, though. There's
always the risk of executing innocent people. It
violates the right to life, it's cruel and degrading."
--- Dr Asunta Vivó Cavaller
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