Caribbean urged to abolish death penalty
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Wednesday urged Caribbean countries that still have the death penalty to abolish it or at least to impose a moratorium on its application.
In a message marking International Day against the Death Penalty on Thursday, the IACHR said regional instruments for protection of human rights do not prohibit per se the imposition of the death penalty, but they establish specific restrictions and prohibitions regarding its application.
“The American Convention on Human Rights establishes provisions required to limit its application, with the aim of achieving its gradual disappearance,” the IACHR said, pointing to a clear global trend toward abolishing the death penalty, based on recent developments in this matter at the United Nations.
The IACHR said it was urging countries to ratify the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty; to refrain from adopting any measure that would expand the application of the death penalty or reintroduce it and to take any measures necessary to ensure compliance with the strictest standards of due process in cases involving the application of the death penalty.
The IACHR said while capital punishment remains a pressing challenge, the region has seen significant changes, including reforms to restrict the types of crimes and circumstances in which the death penalty can be applied, as well as explicit or de facto moratoriums.
“Of particular importance have been advances in Caribbean countries related to the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, that is, when it is imposed after a criminal conviction without the opportunity for presenting or considering mitigating circumstances.
“The development of inter-American standards establishing that the death penalty contravenes the American Convention and the American Declaration, as well as interaction between the inter-American human rights bodies and the judicial bodies of the Commonwealth Caribbean, among other factors, have led to progress in the elimination of the mandatory death penalty in the majority of the countries of the Caribbean.”
The IACHR said it expects that additional progress would be made in this direction until mandatory imposition of this punishment is abolished in all the countries of the region.
But the IACHR said it remains concerned about the “persistence of significant and worrisome challenges regarding the application of the death penalty” in the region.
It said that some member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) have executed individuals sentenced to death in defiance of precautionary measures granted by the Commission or provisional measures granted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the context of cases or petitions alleging serious violations to due process, among other violations.
“This undermines the effectiveness of the process before the Commission and causes irreparable harm to those individuals, in violation of States’ international human rights obligations.”