The Greater Caribbean for Life (GCL) Organisation that has been uniting entities and individuals against capital punishment in our region since 2013, affirms its opposition to a proposal made by Jamaican Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, to amend the Offences Against the Person Act to establish a mandatory death sentence for capital murder. His plan also proposes a penalty of life imprisonment for non-capital murder.
We need to remember that the Privy Council has decided in many cases the unconstitutionality of the mandatory death penalty, referred to as the automatic death penalty in Holness’ proposition.
In Lambert Watson v The Queen, delivered in 2004, the Privy Council declared unconstitutional another amendment to Jamaica’s Offences Against the Person Act. In 2011 the Jamaican Government changed its Constitution and the general savings law clause was repealed.
Instead of looking for inappropriate solutions for violence that will be challenged in courts, GCL invites the Jamaican government to initiate a comprehensive dialogue to consider the root causes of crime and work to develop effective, short/long-term, non-lethal solutions that will be more conducive to building safe, just, and peaceful societies in our region.
If capital punishment is a gross anachronism by itself, the mandatory death penalty proposed by Jamaica is an uncivilized legal rule that has no place in the 21st century. Times have changed. Human rights values have set higher standards today.
Let’s take, for example, the United States, the only country that sentences and executes yearly in our hemisphere, where the mandatory death penalty was declared unconstitutional in 1976.
The US Supreme Court decided 46 years ago in Woodson v. North Carolina that “It is now well established that the Eighth Amendment draws much of its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.
As the above discussion makes clear, one of the most significant developments in our society’s treatment of capital punishment has been the rejection of the common law practice of inexorably imposing a death sentence upon every person convicted of a specified offense (cites omitted)”.
Let’s stop crime, not lives!
SOURCE: Greater Caribbean for Life