Guyana govt “not in a rush” to hold death penalty consultations

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 July 2016, 14:42 by Denis Chabrol

A day after a top international human rights activist called on Guyana to repeal the death penalty for terrorism and other offences for which there is capital punishment, government on Thursday ruled out consultations any time soon to do so.

Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, who chaired the post-cabinet press conference, said from all indications government was “not in a rush” to abolish the death penalty and any such decision would taken after consultations.

Asked when such consultations would be held, Trotman said “we are not in a position to say that we will be entering into consultations to add to the penalties or to remove them. We don’t feel the impetus right now.”

At the same time, he noted that there has been a 20-year old moratorium on the death penalty in Guyana.

He explained that Guyana’s anti-terrorism legislation provides for the death penalty in keeping with requirements by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and to ensure that the country is not blacklisted.

Trotman noted that “there is a strong clamour” in several European countries such as France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey for the reinstitution of the death penalty amid several deadly terrorist attacks.

He observed that a number of the countries that have been advocating for the removal of the death penalty have been bombing targets and killing innocents and hostiles raising questions whether “this was not a form of the death penalty being advanced by some of the very countries that are asking to remove from your books the death penalty.”

The Guyana government’s position on Thursday appeared to be a rebuff of Commissioner with the International Commission against the Death Penalty, Justice Navi Pillay’s call on Wednesday for this country to review its Terrorism Act that has 12 provisions for the death penalty.

“You don’t pass a law just because something terrible has happened. Law is not done emotionally. The rule of law follows international standards and Guyana is very much a part of the international community, has passed many international treaties and so they are bound to pass laws that are certain and definite and not responding each time to terrorism acts committed here, France or wherever,” she told a news conference at the Marriott Hotel.

Pillay was at the time addressing a news conference ahead of a judicial colloquium with Guyanese judges and magistrates at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown.

She said the de facto moratorium on the death penalty in Guyana was sufficient and it was time that lawmakers abolish punishment by death altogether.

Less than 10 years ago, Guyana amended its law that only allowed for the death penalty for persons convicted of killing members of the security services and magistrates and judges in the line of their duty.

However, a High Court Judge last month handed down the death sentence on a man who was found guilty of the murder of two brothers several years ago.