PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP):
THE CARIBBEAN Court of Justice (CCJ) will tomorrow consider an appeal by Barbados to overturn a legal precedent that some regional politicians and jurists contend has effectively blocked executions across the region.
Barbados will ask the CCJ, the new regional appeals court that heard its first case last year, to allow it to hang two men convicted of beating another man to death in 1999 - overturning a ruling that executions must occur within five years of conviction.
"This could affect death penalty cases across the Caribbean," said Ramesh Deosaran, director of the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at The University of the West Indies in Trinidad.
The region's last hanging - the method of executions in the Caribbean- was in the Bahamas in 2000. In 1999, Trinidad hanged ten men in one year. Jamaica hasn't hanged anyone since 1988.
The United Kingdom-based Privy Council, the final appeals court for most of the English-speaking Caribbean has been criticised by regional politicians and some jurists as being anti-death penalty. The Privy Council has also been criticised as a remaining vestige of colonial power.
Many Caribbean countries have experienced surging crime rates and with this there have been mounting calls for the death penalty to be used to punish murder covicts and send a message to would-be criminals.
PRIVY COUNCIL RULING
In Pratt and Morgan, the 1993 case that Barbados wants to overturn, the Privy Council ruled that keeping a prisoner on death row for more than five years was cruel and inhumane. Lawyers for Barbados have argued that the time limit is an arbitrary restriction preventing them from upholding justice executions across the Caribbean since only two of the 15 countries that voted to start the CCJ - Barbados and Guyana - have passed legislation to accept its jurisdiction.
But it could prompt other nations to join the court and eventually lead to the resumption of executions, Deosaran said.
Though the court's judges are aware of the political pressures to hang convicted killers, it's unlikely that they will throw out such established case law, some legal analysts contend.
"This is their first death penalty case," said Gregory Delzin, an anti-death penalty in the Caribbean. "They're not going to come out of the barn with their guns blazing."