Sir Clare Roberts, former attorney general and minister of justice and legal affairs for Antigua and Barbuda, has hailed yesterday's conference on the death penalty as "timely," as many believed reinstituting the punishment was a solution.The conference, titled "The death penalty in the context of public security, neither right nor effective," was held at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, St Augustine.
Roberts, who was also a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, posed the question whether the death penalty was right."Apart from the simple premise that there is a limit as to how far the State can go in punishing perpetrators, even for the most heinous crimes, in my view the death penalty crosses the line," Roberts said.He said when there was a breakdown in public security, politicians liked to use the call, "bring back the death penalty." But that, Roberts added, was just a "quick and cheap fix."
"It costs virtually nothing to enact legislation to reimpose the death penalty and it has the advantage of appearing to take a form of action," Roberts said.Referring to the recent shooting deaths in his country, Roberts said that led Antigua and Barbuda's national security minister to "lead a chorus" in proposing the resumption of hangings."I found this most ironic because there is no emphasis on trying to detect the crime and finding the perpetrator and putting him on trial.
"The whole costly process is left out. It costs money to furnish the police force with trained detectives, forensic labs, with up-to-date equipment. It costs to attack the root causes of crime," Roberts said.The increase of poverty and indigence in the Caribbean had raised levels of inequality, social exclusion and violence in crime, he added."The Caribbean islands today have some of the highest rates of crime in the world. Jamaica is called the 'murder capital of the world.' T&T is not too far behind.
"The man in the street is concerned about his safety and that of his family and he therefore finds it easy to buy into the quick fix of bringing back the death penalty," Roberts said.Also speaking was attorney Leela Ramdeen, a member of Greater Caribbean for Life and chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice.She echoed Roberts' sentiment that there was urgent need to examine the root causes of crime.
She said 13 of the 58 countries that retained the death penalty belonged to the Caribbean and were nearly all English-speaking."T&T and Barbados retained the mandatory death penalty for murder and Guyana retained it for treason."Of concern also is the fact that nearly all the English-speaking countries continue to refuse to sign in favour of the moratorium resolution at the UN," Ramdeen added.The United Nations has called for the general suspension of capital punishment throughout the world.