By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – A conference organized by the European Union and the British High Commission on the abolition of the death penalty in Guyana and other Caribbean countries will begin today at the Arthur Chung Convention Center.
The issue of abolishing the death penalty has been a touchy subject over the years with some advocating for it, while others see it as the only justifiable means of justice – a life for a life.
While Guyana does not inflict the death penalty, and no person has been sentenced to death in recent times, there is still need for the law to be struck from the legislature, according to abolitionist advocates.
Governance Minister, Raphael Trotman at a the opening ceremony of the conference on Monday, November 23, said that the Government welcomes the conference and is aware of what a “though provoking” confabulation it would be.
Trotman gave no indication whether the Guyana government was willing to review the laws associated with the death penalty. He questioned whether Guyana as a country with the current political directorate is ready to take a forward decision with regards to the issue.
The Minister pointed out too that there is an “unwritten and unspoken moratorium” in the legal fraternity that says no person should be sentenced to death though the law makes explicit provision for capital punishment.
Secretary General of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, Dr Asunta Cavaller stated that the conference is timely occasioned.
She stated that, “Abolition of the dealt penalty requires political leadership” and should not be subjected to whimsical public opinion.
Dr Cavaller made it clear that the death penalty is not the answer since the state runs the risk of executing someone who is innocent.
“The risk of executing the innocent can never fully be mitigated,” said the Secretary General.
She said that in her experience capital punishment “targets marginalized and ethnic minorities.”
With regards to crime, she made it clear that “the Death penalty has not proven to be a deterrent – in the Caribbean, many countries who retain the death penalty have the highest rate of crimes.”
“Abolition of the death penalty requires political leadership, the leaders have to be convinced of the need for the abolition of the death penalty,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, UK Parliamentary representative, Lord Navnit Dholakai noted that “there is no evidence anywhere in the world, which proves that by establishing the death penalty you have reduced crime.”
“If we can open death penalty discussions, if we can put forward the quality of arguments for them to consider taking back the death penalty then I think we have achieved something,” he added.