As concerns grow over the lack of regional interest to abolish the death penalty, calls have been made for capital punishment to be removed from Guyana’s Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation.
Though Guyana has committed to join worldwide efforts to abolish this act, the death penalty was included in the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill 2016 despite objections from the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) parliamentary Opposition.
Ahead of a judicial colloquium on the death penalty on Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel, the international representatives call for this clause to be removed from the legislation, and from all other pieces of legislature in Guyana.
EU Charge D’Affaires Derek Lambe, disclosed that he was informed that Cabinet is actively reviewing the legislation and it is his hope that it will be removed.
“We would very much like to see the death penalty being removed from any legislation in Guyana and every other country in the world,” he stated, when prompted to comment on how this dilemma will affect its advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty.
Judge Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also expressed hope that the death penalty will be removed from the books completely.
She explained that governments should not just pass a law because something terrible occurred.
“Law is not done emotionally. The rule of law follows intentional standard and Guyana is very much a part of the international community… so you have to pass laws that are sound and definite and not responding each time there is a terrorist act committed here or in France or wherever. Of course, these are terrible crimes and the UN has very specific requirements for counter terrorism measures,” she stated, emphasising that these measures do not comply with the capital punishment.
On this note, she urged that Guyana advance forward and not backward in its efforts to abolish the death penalty.
“This country should be proud that in 20 years there has been no execution,” she highlighted. Guyana last executed a death row inmate in 1997.
But Pillay stressed that it ought not to be just a moratorium but it must be abolished.
Moreover, Assistant Secretary General from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, also pointed out that there is no evidence that proves that the death penalty deters any crime, including terrorism.
The European Union (EU) in collaboration with United Nations (UN) representatives organised a conference with members of the local judiciary to engage in a detail discussions on the movement towards abolishing the death penalty.
Just before the event got underway, the delegation hosted a news conference to brief the media about the expectations of the activity.
The forum will see presentations being done by members of the international rights groups, where they will share experiences and progress of other countries towards the abolition of the death penalty.
The aim is to broaden the discussion on the matter in Guyana.
The visiting delegation also visited several Government officials including Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams.
They intend on meeting Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan today.
The Attorney General had argued that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regime mandates the capital punishment be enshrined in the AML/CFT legislation.
However, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall asserted that in other countries deemed FATF compliant, the death penalty is abolished. He pointed out that in France, where FATF is headquartered, the death penalty was abolished decades ago; and the country is still FATF compliant.
According to statistics by Amnesty International, 140 countries abolished the death penalty in 2014, by law or practice. This is significant given that when the organisation started its campaign against the death penalty in 1997, only 16 countries had abolished this punishment for all crimes. Seven countries that carried out executions in 2013 did not do so in 2014; those being Bangladesh, Botswana, Indonesia, India, Kuwait, Nigeria and South Sudan.
Despite this remarkable progress, there was a recorded 28 per cent increase in the number of executions in 2014 when compared to the figures in 2013. There were 2466 death sentences in 55 countries in 2014, with a total of 607 executions. This figure excludes China, which executed more persons than the rest of the world combined. The top five countries which still execute prisoners on death row are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the USA.
Additionally, seven other countries resumed executions – Belarus, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Jordan, Pakistan, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. (Devina Samaroo)