'Stop Crime Not Lives' - Francis on Death Penalty
Tuesday 10th October 2017 is observed as the World Day Against the Death Penalty. First observed in 2003 by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), this year marks the 15th observance with focus on the theme “Poverty and Justice a deadly mix.”
The purpose of this theme is to raise awareness about the reasons why people living in poverty are at a greater risk of being sentenced to death and executed. The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty is an alliance of N.G.O’s, Bar Associations, local authorities and Unions.
The overall objective of the WCA against the Death Penalty is to strengthen the international dimension of the fight against the Death Penalty with the goal to achieve universal abolition of the death penalty.
The Caribbean is also part of the international campaign, through the work of the Greater Caribbean For Life (GCL) which is a Non-Profit, Civil Society Organisation established in Trinidad on October 2nd 2013 to unite the Caribbean abolitionist organizations and individuals.
GCL believes in stopping crime not lives and strives to create a culture of respect for the right to live and for the dignity of all human beings.
The Greater Caribbean consists of 25 countries/states including 13 Caricom countries which retain the Death Penalty.
As a member of the Greater Caribbean For Life I take this opportunity to raise awareness of the international campaign to abolish the Death Penalty. Although there has been no execution in St. Lucia since 1994, St. Lucia remains a retentionist country. Against the strong statements made 2 weeks ago by the Minister of Justice, to visit the gallows, it is necessary to state categorically that despite the rise in youth violent crime and murder, this is a backward stance, as hanging is no deterrent to crime.
In keeping with this year’s theme “Poverty and Justice a deadly mix” I call on the Government to stop crime and not lives. Rather to focus on the issue of poverty and its related ills. Prevention is the key. By focusing on the social and economic origin of crime, such as the poverty which engenders violence and disregard for Law and Order. In this regard St. Lucia must adopt the recommendations contained in the U.N.D.P 2012 Report “Human Development and the shift to better citizen security.”
The U.N.D.P urges Governments in the region to strive to achieve “a better balance between legitimate law enforcement and preventive measures, with a stronger focus on prevention and to invest more, for example in youth development, job creation and reducing poverty and socio-economic inequality, inequity. These strategies can contribute to a safer and more democratic just society in the region.
This is the strategy for St. Lucia in preventing crime/murder instead of applying the Death Penalty. At the domestic level we must try to eradicate the drug culture, which breeds the gun culture, side by side introduce family support measures and rehabilitate delinquent youth. The criminal justice system must be strengthened, by removing the delays, ensuring prosecutions and improving forensic investigation.
Above all St. Lucia must live up to its international responsibility by adhering to the 2014 recommendations of United Nations Human Rights Commission, which at the Universal Periodic Review Meeting for St. Lucia in 2015 urged St. Lucia to take steps to abolish the Death Penalty by signing and ratifying the 2nd Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which abolishes the Death Penalty. St. Lucia should also consider stop voting against the U.N Resolutions regarding the call for a moratorium on the death penalty, which the Caribbean States as retentionist always vote against.
As World Day against the Death Penalty is observed, the victims of violent crime must not be forgotten, however, injustice cannot be fought with injustice and our Court of Appeal has already declared the mandatory death penalty (hanging) to be inhuman and degrading treatment and therefore unconstitutional. For after all the RIGHT TO LIFE is the most fundamental human right and must be upheld by the citizens but more importantly upheld by the State. It is wrong for the State to carry out capital punishment in the name of justice. This is simply state killing, which most times involve the poorer marginalized in St. Lucia.
There must be a better way, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. As Christians and citizens let us educate ourselves, let us become part of the International Campaign to abolish the Death Penalty and save lives
Without the right to life, there simply would be no human rights, because human rights are indivisible, are interrelated and interdependent. The abolition of the death penalty is in keeping with evolving standards of decency/practised by modern democratic societies which have implemented alternative punishment for murder so as to keep society safe. St. Lucia can do the same.
Mary M. Francis
National Centre For Legal Aid and Human Rights Inc.
Greater Caribbean For Life (G.C.L)