ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
JAMAICAN ATTORNEY GENERAL URGES HUMAN RIGHTS
TO SPEED UP CONSIDERATION OF DEATH PENALTY APPEALS
December 11, 1998
Jamaicas Attorney General, Arnold Joseph Nicholson, addressing the Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council in Washington today, called on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to speed up consideration of death penalty cases before it.
He said delays by the OAS human rights body in hearing and replying to the government on death penalty cases were frustrating "attempts to enforce the law in the affected states." They were also "a major obstacle to the due implementation of laws in force" in a large number of OAS member states, "principally from the Caribbean," according to Mr. Nicholson. He explained that Jamaica and other CARICOM states applied the death penalty "for certain categories of murder," as a reflection of the "democratic will of the people of the states concerned."
The Jamaican attorney general explained that the countries were facing the possibility of not being able to comply with time-frames placed on them by the Privy Council--the highest appeal body for the countries concerned--because appeals by death row prisoners to the Inter-American Commission were not being handled speedily enough. He stressed that Jamaica boasted a strong commitment to human rights with an "excellent human rights record" as evidence. "All citizens, including those charged with the capital offence, are entitled to a wide range of juridical procedures under Jamaican law."
Mr. Nicholsons presentation before the Council of ambassadors received full Caribbean support. Trinidad and Tobagos Ambassador Michael Arneaud recalled the difficulties his own country faced on the same issue.
In addition, the delegations of The Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines registered their support, restating the concerns outlined by the Jamaican official. They indicated that the problems arising from the appeals delay were similar throughout the English-speaking Caribbean countries.
Permanent Council chairman, Venezuelas Ambassador Francisco Paparoni, presided over the session, which was also attended by OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria and Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas.