The Catholic Church is calling on the Mia Mottley-led Government to abolish the death penalty, arguing it is not justified under any circumstance.
In a statement of support for a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which declared the mandatory death sentence for a conviction of murder as unconstitutional and a violation of the right to life, the church said not even a person convicted of murder deserved to be killed.
“The CCJ’s decision is a step in the right direction but does not remove the death penalty from the laws in Barbados, so there is still some work to be done,” Apostolic Administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgetown, Archbishop Jason Gordon said in the statement.
“Every life is a precious gift from God. We are all created in the image and likeness of God and thus have inherent dignity. The taking of one life does not therefore justify the taking of another,” he added.
This has been longstanding position of the archbishop, who has preached a restorative justice approach to crime and violence, which focuses on holding the offender accountable in a more meaningful way and helping to achieve a sense of healing for both victims and the community.
The approach embraces socialization, rehabilitation and reconciliation, rather than retribution and vengeance.
“To reject capital punishment is not to make light of the loss of loved ones and the violation of human dignity and rights experienced by victims of crime,” Gordon, the archbishop of Port of Spain, said.
“The pastoral care of the church is directed first towards the comfort and assistance of these victims. The compassion and love shown by the church and society to victims and the support given to their families to help them cope with a tragic loss continues to be vital. “Prayer, love and counselling can help grieving families reach a place of peace and, hopefully, healing,” he said.
The CCJ, this country’s highest court, made the ruling based on two unrelated death penalty cases from Barbados.
The cases, Jabari Sensimania Nervais v The Queen, and Dwayne Omar Severin v The Queen, were consolidated because both appeals challenged the murder convictions of each of the men and the constitutionality of the mandatory death sentence for murder.
The court stated that a section of the Offences Against the Person Act was unconstitutional because it provided for a mandatory sentence of death, but dismissed the appeals against the men’s convictions.
Before examining the issues raised by the appeal, the regional court considered the state of the mandatory death penalty in Barbados for murder and found that it was indisputable that the nation, through its actions, had acknowledged that it had an obligation to remove such mandatory sentence under Section 2 of the Offences Against the Person Act.
The court also found that Barbados had also given undertakings to the CCJ and the Inter American Court of Human Rights to rectify the mandatory sentence, which was reflected in the Barbados Privy Council’s consistent commutation of the mandatory death penalty.