Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today made a preemptive strike against the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as his administration prepares to resume debate on the removal of the mandatory death penalty.
In wrapping up debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2016 which sought to extend the retirement age for both the Auditor General and the Director of Public Prosecutions from 62 to 67, Stuart took a less-than-subtle jab at the at BLP over the country’s participation in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The Prime Minister told the House that the court was thrust upon Barbadians in 2000 without a national discussion.
The BLP was in office when Barbados joined the judicial institution which promote basic rights and freedoms in the Americas.
“We woke up one morning and heard that we had submitted to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court and that cases could go there in accordance to the Inter-American Convention. There was no referendum, no discussion. It just happened,” Stuart said. He explained that as a result of the country’s participation in the court, Barbados was obligated to get rid of the mandatory death sentence.
“When we submitted to the jurisdiction of the court, we entered a reservation on the issue of the death penalty [and] the court ruled that the reservation which we entered [was]of no legal effect; it could not achieve the objective which we wanted to achieve and therefore we had to comply with this order to remove the mandatory death penalty.”
Stuart explained that because the mandatory death penalty did not comply with the American Convention on Human Rights Barbados could not ignore the court’s orders.
“We were advised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s office, that if an order has been made against the Government of Barbados on such an important an issue as the removal of the mandatory death penalty, we cannot just turn a blind eye to that order and pretend that it is not there. We must demonstrate that we obey court orders as well,” he said.
Stuart said Barbados remained the only English-speaking Caribbean country under the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.
“Barbados submitted itself to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court around 2000-2001, the USA has not submitted itself to that court, Canada has not submitted itself to that court. One Caribbean country, Trinidad and Tobago had, and withdrew from the court because it was thought that the court’s arm reached too far into the everyday life of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados is still a member of the court.
“I am aware that there are initiatives afoot to regularize our relationship with the court but we could not do other than to bring that particular amendment before the house as we have done,” he added.
“That debate has started in this house, the debate has not yet finished because there were some issues that were raised along the way which the Attorney General wanted to check and we are back to that debate on the mandatory death penalty. The debate has started and about six or seven persons have spoken already,” the Prime Minister said.