Thu | Aug 17, 2017

International politicians want Jamaica to bury the death penalty

Published:Friday | April 7, 2017 | 4:00 AMRomario Scott

The debate surrounding the controversial issue of capital punishment continued to rumble on Wednesday at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, with two international political figures declaring that Jamaica must be brave enough to outlaw the punishment.

With communities being torn apart by thugs who seem to revel in murder and every episode of grief they cause, many, including Custos of Manchester Sally Porteous are clamouring for their necks to be cracked.

However, speaking at a public lecture dubbed Abolition of the Death Penalty, hosted by the Faculty of Law in collaboration with the British High Commission in Kingston on Wednesday, former prime minister of Haiti, MichËle Duvivier Pierre-Louis, insisted that the death penalty does "more harm than good".

"It is true that there are serious crimes that are being committed. It is true that victims should get justice, but the question is, is the State authorised to put an end to somebody else's life?" Pierre-Louis said.

The former prime minister, also commissioner at the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, argued that the punishment being removed did not mean that heartless criminals who continued to drive fear into communities and the country at large should not be harshly punished.

"It is not a question of not sanctioning. I think once people have committed serious crimes, and once it is proved that they have committed crimes, they should be sanctioned. There is a range of sanctions that can be applied.

"But that is why the criminal justice system is so important. Do people get due process?" she asked.

... 'Rights of accused can be trampled'

Conservative British Member of Parliament Mark Pritchard, in his contribution to the public lecture, was quick to point out that the cries for the death penalty are loudest when the public is demanding swift justice.

He, however, argued that the rights of accused persons can easily be trampled on during such intense moments in an attempt to satisfy the public's appetite for justice.

Pritchard rejected the idea that one being sentenced to death automatically meant justice for those wronged.

MichËle Duvivier Pierre-Louis admitted that "lawyers looking out for their constituents" were keen on the death penalty being removed from the books.

She, however, noted that with strong public opinion in support of the death penalty and politicians mindful of the possible electoral backlash they may receive from even the mere suggestion of outlawing the punishment, more discussion on the issue was needed.

In 2008, Parliament voted overwhelmingly in a conscience vote in support of the retention of capital punishment.

Jamaica last carried out the death sentence in 1988 on execution warrant signed by then Attorney General Oswald Harding.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com