A recent study by this country’s Criminal Justice Unit shows that 80 per cent of Barbadians support the retention of the death penalty on this country’s statute books.
However, Kim Ramsay, a senior researcher with the Government-run unit, Wednesday night warned that this strong retentionist sentiment, which she expects local politicians to pay attention to, “comes into conflict with the broad jurisdiction of international human rights tribunals”.
The island has been under pressure from international organizations such as Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to do away with the death penalty, which was deemed too harsh and said to be in breach of international law.
Back in 2014, Government had announced plans to abolish the mandatory death sentence for murder with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite stating at the time that he expected strong opposition to the plan, as many believe the death penalty was an appropriate punishment.
Brathwaite had also promised that Government would engage the population in a big public debate before the proposal was tabled in Parliament.
“Barbadians generally feel that once you commit murder you should forfeit your lives, but that is until one of their family members is involved,” Brathwaite had said.
“I know it will be a battle but . . . . I believe that it is a better path for the country,” he added at the time.
However, the provision remains on the statute books and delivering a lecture here last night on criminal justice, Ramsay revealed that an overwhelming number of Barbadians want it to remain there.
“Eighty per cent of our Barbadians, based on a study we did, indicated that they want the death penalty retained.
“So this retentionist sentiment, which obviously politicians have to pay attention to, comes into conflict with the broad jurisdiction of international human rights tribunals,” she said, while warning that Britain has also been waving a big stick over this island’s trade.
Therefore, “‘if you do not comply with what I say, then we start to pull away things from you,’” she said in reference to pressure from the UK, while further cautioning that “it puts us in a very precarious position”.
Ramsay, a criminologist of 14 years experience, went on to suggest that this was one of the reasons “why we have not had any executions since 1984”.
She also explained why she differed with most Barbadians on the use of the death penalty, which remains on the island’s statute books as the automatic punishment for convicted murderers, even though no one has been hanged here in 32 years.
“I don’t believe that the death penalty is effective in reducing our criminal problems,” she said, adding that she was yet to see how executions of condemned criminals would reduce crime in any jurisdiction.
“There is crime in any country, no matter what systems you have in place,” she insisted, while highlighting the fact that the Caribbean has one of the highest homicide rates in the Americas.
“I have to agree with the international agencies, the international rights, the treaties that we’ve signed on to,” Ramsay said while adding that she was a firm believer in dealing with problems at the root.
However, she argued that “a lot of our problems are societal problems.
“I think that is how we need to address crime, from a societal point, as opposed to coming in at the back end,” she said.