Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 13th 2013 Contents GAIL ALEXANDER
MADRID---October 10, designated
World Day Against the Death Penal-
ty, has been dedicated to the
Caribbean, according to the World
Coalition Against the Death Penalty
and the international abolitionist
The Caribbean, among 93 coun-
tries which still retain the death
penalty laws, is part of the focus at
the fifth annual Anti-Death Penalty
Congress in Madrid's Palacio Munic-
ipal de Congresos, which opened yes-
terday and attracted1,500 partici-
It is staged by the French-based
World Coalition against the Death
Penalty Organisation and supported
by Spanish, Norwegian, French, Swiss
and other governments.
More than 200 participants and
journalists are from retentionist states,
like T&T in the Caribbean, which
retain the death penalty.
T&T attorney, consultant and chair
of the Catholic Commission for Social
Justice (CGFL), Leela Ramdeen, and
Jamaican attorney Lloyd Barnett are
representing the Caribbean.
Ramdeen is steering member of
the Greater Caribbean for Life group
representing regional states.
Barnett, a founding member of the
CGFL, is former chairman of the
Independent Jamaican Council for
Human Rights and has been involved
in leading regional cases challenging
the constitutionality of the death
Both will be part of today's first
day of roundtable sessions.
Also on that panel will be Mexican
and Puerto Rican speakers, who will
all evaluate a region which the world
coalition group says is "unknown to
many, its penal practices and initia-
tives," in favour of abolition with a
view to developing strategies on the
Information to congress partici-
pants on the Caribbean's status on
the issue notes that "beyond idyllic
white sandy beaches," more than half
of Caribbean states practise the death
penalty, it enjoys broad popular sup-
port and policy-makers favour it as
an immediate response to crime.
T&T is listed, along with
Antigua/Barbuda, Bahamas, Barba-
dos, Belize, Dominica, Guyana,
Grenada, Jamaica, St Lucia, St
Kitts/Nevis and St Vincent and the
Grenadines, as regional retentionist
The Abolition Journal tracking
issues concerning such states has
portrayed the situation by saying:
"Gaps in legal services related to
lack of training and resources of the
police, generate procedural violations
and lead to the death sentence for
people with mental disabilities.
"In many cases, death sentences
are imposed only on the basis of tes-
timony or confessions, some of which
are extracted under torture."
The survey noted: "Against the
global trend towards abolition, several
governments in the region have
adopted laws to resume hangings.
"Governments use the crime surge
to support use of the death penalty
and retain information from the pub-
lic on human rights issues inherent
to capital punishment."
The international abolitionist com-
munity therefore agreed to "lend a
hand" on the Caribbean issue when
the October 10 World Day Against
the Death Penalty will be dedicated
to the Caribbean.
After this week's Madrid Congress,
the French group, "Together Against
the Death Penalty" (ECPM), will
undertake events informing the public
of the Caribbean region's situation.
ECPM, which spearheads mobil-
isation after congress events, also
lobbies against sentencing people to
death for homosexuality.
ECPM notes ten countries still do
so, including Uganda and Zimbabwe,
which proposes laws for capital pun-
ishment for "aggravated homosex-
Apart from the Caribbean, congress
focus also falls on the Middle East,
including Iran and Iraq particularly,
Africa, China and parts of Asia ---
particularly India --- described as the
abolition battle's "last frontier."
Gry Larsen, Norwegian Foreign
Affairs Secretary, says the July 2011
terror attacks in Norway, when 77
people were killed, did not change
that country's fundamental position
to the issue, since Norwegians have
great confidence in their justice sys-
tem and penal code.
The Abolition Journal said 682
executions were listed worldwide in
2012, slightly up on 2011, when 672
China and the US were described
as standing out. The US is the only
democracy in that category, which
also includes Iraq, Iran and Saudi
Arabia, which account for three quar-
ters of executions.
In Iran, 580 people were executed
in 2012, 60 of them publicly hanged.
Executions for drug-related
offences and rape/assault account for
the largest percentage of executions.
It was also noted 86 per cent of
Japanese people support the death
Some 17 states have joined aboli-
tionist ranks since 2003. Strides on
the issue have also been noted in Sin-
gapore, Congo and other parts of Asia
and by the Moroccan parliamentary
French Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius says advances on the issue are
unmistakable, since two thirds of the
193-member United Nations no
longer use the death penalty.
He has called for the current
Madrid meeting to pave the way for
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, June 13, 2013
What makes me
gleam, clean &
a dream to drive?
Caribbean in sharp focus
Anti-death penalty congress opens
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