Amnesty blasts St Kitts execution
BASSETERRE, St Kitts, December 24, 2008 – Human rights group Amnesty International has criticised the St Kitts and Nevis government for executing a convicted murderer last week, describing it as shameless.
In the twin-island federation’s first hanging since 1998, 40-year-old Charles Elroy Laplace was executed last Friday for the 2004 murder of his wife.
“Amnesty International considers the execution…as a shameless human rights development for the country after 10 years of moratorium,” it said in a statement.
“Amnesty International appeals to the St Kitts and Nevis authorities to send a strong message to the world and to the other Caribbean countries by stopping the executions and commuting the sentences of all other prisoners waiting on death row,” it added.
The group pointed out that “the world is turning away from the use of death penalty”, noting that before last Friday’s execution, the United States has been the only country in the Americas to carry out executions since 2003.
“Even in the USA there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of executions in recent years. One hundred and thirty seven countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice and only 24 nations carried out executions in 2007. Huge swathes of the world are now free from executions,” Amnesty said.
After last week’s execution, the St Kitts Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas said he found no comfort in carrying out the death sentence which the court imposed on the convict, but said he hoped it would act as a deterrent to others.
But Amnesty said while it understands concern about the upsurge of crime, and in particular murders, in the country, “the organisation strongly believes that the use of the death penalty, as well as constituting cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, is not an effective method for preventing crime”.
“Given the unlikelihood of ever being brought before the courts, it is quite implausible that before committing a crime a criminal would consider the risk of being hung and would refrain from wrong-doing. The death penalty also runs the risk of irrevocable error,” it said.
“Protection of citizens does not come from executing criminals but from preventing them from committing crimes. Amnesty International therefore believes that the true solution to the deteriorating crime situation lies with the strengthening of police capacities. The proper functioning of the justice system is also crucial to ensure compensation to victims but such compensation cannot come from claiming the life of the wrong-doer.”
The last execution in other English-speaking Caribbean countries was carried out in the Bahamas in 2000.
Meanwhile, the St Lucia government has signalled its intention to reintroduce the death penalty in that country. National Security Minister Guy Mayers said he will recommend legislative changes to make it a reality.