Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean have been “challenged” to take the “emotions” away from the debate on the death penalty and to abolish hanging as punishment for capital murder.
Europe’s point man in the Eastern Caribbean Ambassador Mikael Barfod has emphasized the European Union’s (EU) position that the death penalty is cruel and inhumane and does not deter criminals.
In a message for European Day against the Death Penalty which will be observed tomorrow, Barfor said he was “pleased” that Barbados has not executed any convicted killers since 1984; that Grenada has not had an execution since 1978 and that “the last execution in any of our countries” was seven years ago in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The EU ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean countries, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and CARIFORUM acknowledged that while the death penalty remains on the books for Barbados and OECS “for historical reasons” there are changes.
He said he recognized that the mandatory death penalty in the OECS has been abolished since a 2002 Court of Appeal decision deemed it to be unconstitutional and that steps have been taken by Barbados to do the same. He argued that there has been a ‘de-facto” moratorium on capital punishment, but this was not enough.
“In line with this tendency and given the existence of a de-facto moratorium because of the length of time since an execution has been carried out, the next step should be taken: accepting a legal moratorium,” Barfor said in his statement.
The European diplomat admitted that the rise in crime has given fresh impetus to proponents of hanging, but he called on regional leaders to “show more courage” and lead the charge against capital punishment.
“With the increase in crime, particularly murders, in recent times, there have been renewed calls for the death penalty. Despite the support that the use of the death penalty still receives in Caribbean communities, I challenge leaders to show more courage, launch a public debate and lead the way in the fight against the death penalty.
“The EU sees the death penalty as cruel and inhumane, and scientific research has shown that the death penalty in no way acts as a deterrent to crime. Its abolition is essential for the protection of human dignity, as well as for the progressive development of human rights. This is a moral issue about the value of human life. As a deeply religious Caribbean society this is one of the basic tenets that as a community we hold dear. Sentiments such as ‘it is cheaper to kill them than to keep them in prison’ have no place in this era of civilization,” he stated.
Barfor made reference to “a worldwide movement” against the act and stressed that “even here in the Caribbean” the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Suriname have abolished it. He also appealed to Caribbean leaders to join the “international outcry” that is “also well present” in the United Nations by supporting the biennial resolution establishing a moratorium on executions, with the goal of abolishing the death penalty.
“I take this opportunity to urge your leaders to vote in favour of such a moratorium or at least to abstain, instead of voting against it, reflecting the situation of no executions on the ground for almost ten years!
“For those who may yet be not convinced, I make a call for a debate between the stakeholders, including the church and the legal fraternity. Let us put the facts to the test and come up with a position based on principles and not on emotions and historical customs,” the ambassador’s statement said. “The EU remains strongly committed to this fight.”