Out with the tamarind switch! - Gov't moves to remove flogging from books
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
JAMAICA IS rushing to remove from its statute books laws relating to flogging and whipping as pressure mounts from human-rights bodies and international development partners, who claim that the country is contravening the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
The practice of whipping and flogging ceased in Jamaica's penal institutions in 1997 and since that time, the courts have not handed down sentencing with those stipulations.
However, Jamaica is unable to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment because the archaic laws pertaining to flogging and whipping remain on the books.
As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Jamaica is reviewed from time to time to determine whether the island is in compliance with the covenant.
Sentencing by the courts to flogging meant that the convicted person would be beaten with a tamarind switch, while whipping involved the use of a cat o' nine to inflict punishment on the offender.
Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding said that the existence of these laws, which date back to the period of slavery, was in breach of Jamaica's international obligations.
"This is something that is timely in our 50th year that we should move beyond this form of degrading punishment. It is not being administered by the courts any longer because it violates our international obligations to do so, but it remains on our statute books," he told journalists at yesterday's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House.
The last victim of flogging in Jamaica was Errol Price, who was sentenced in 1994 to four years at hard labour and six strokes with the tamarind switch.
He was flogged in 1997 on the day before his release from prison after his sentence was reduced for good behaviour.
Price took the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which ruled that Jamaica was in violation of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
Golding said the administration of the 1970s had first taken steps to remove the laws from the books when then Justice Minister Carl Rattray established an advisory committee chaired by the late noted attorney-at-law Ian Ramsay.
He said a bill was prepared in the 1970s, but it was never enacted.