The European Union (EU) Monday night ruled out punishing former colonies in the Caribbean if they do not scrap the death penalty, but at the same time called on leaders to demonstrate the political will to do so.
“There is no question that the EU would carry out sanctions or halt development aid or anything like that against any country that didn’t abolish the death penalty; we don’t work that way, we work in a spirit of partnership with countries in the Caribbean,” Head of the Political Division at the EU embassy in Guyana, Derek Lambe told a news conference.
The EU made its position known ahead of a Caribbean Regional Conference on the Abolition of the Death Penalty being held in Guyana from November 23 to 24 in Guyana.
Deputy Head of Division for the Caribbean European External Action Service at the EU’s headquarters, Fernando Ponz Canto said “it is not at all a question of sanctions and it is not a question of teaching.” “It is a question for the Caribbean to decide so we are here not to tell you what to do at all. We are here to support you in your decisions but also to try to exchange ideas,” he said.
Sponsored by the EU and the United Kingdom, organisers said the conference seeks to raise awareness on the issue and raise very compelling arguments why the death penalty should be abolished.
Secretary General of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty (ICDP), Dr. Asunto Vivo Cavaller said scrapping the death penalty does not mean that persons convicted for serious crimes should not be punished. “Abolition of the death penalty should not mean that those found guilty of serious crimes are not punished. They should receive punishment proportionate to the crime; death penalty is not the answer,” said Cavaller who heads the 17-member ICDP.
She argued that carrying out the death penalty risked killing innocent persons, targeting marginalized and ethnic minorities and working against those who cannot afford to hire lawyers. The ICDP official said there was no evidence that the death penalty results in fewer crimes. “The death penalty has not proven to be a deterrent. Here in the Caribbean, many countries that retain the death penalty are the ones with the highest crime rate,” she said.
Despite widespread desires across the Caribbean for the death penalty to be retained and death row convicts to be executed, the EU urged politicians to lead public opinion rather than follow it. “Changes will not come about if you wait for the public opinion to change. It’s a very long process. The retention of capital punishment cannot simply be left to public referendum on this important subject. It requires leadership,” said Lord Navnit Dholakia of the United Kingdom’s (UK) All Party Committee on Abolition of the Death Penalty.
Suriname was singled out as an example of one Caribbean Community (Caricom) country where the death penalty was abolished earlier this year.
Guyana is among several Caribbean countries that have not executed any of their death row prisoners. In the case of Guyana, it has also amended its law to allow for the execution of persons who have been convicted for the murder of state security personnel and judges in the execution of their duties.
Guyana has more than a dozen death row prisoners. Its last execution by hanging was in 1997.
Secretary General of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty (ICDP), Dr. Asunto Vivo Cavaller and Lord Navnit Dholakia of the United Kingdom’s (UK) All Party Committee on Abolition of the Death Penalty