Six death row inmates’ sentence commuted to life
By Rabindra Rooplall
Six Death Row inmates yesterday had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The prisoners were taken off Death Row after a ruling was made by Chief Justice Ian Chang.
The main reason offered was that the men had been on Death Row for too long and to execute them now would be inhumane treatment. Their stay on Death Row for such a prolonged period meant that they had served a life sentence and to hang them would be to punish them twice, the Chief Justice said in an earlier interview.
What has been tested is the provision in Article 39 (2) (introduced in 2001) of the Constitution, which stipulates that in the interpretation of the fundamental rights provisions in the Constitution a court is to pay due regard to international law, international conventions, covenants and charters bearing on human rights.
Those whose sentences were commuted were Terrance Sahadeo, Ganga Deolall, Bharat Raj Mulai and his brother Lallman Mulai, Kornel Vaux and his brother Daniel Vaux.
Attorney at Law Nigel Hughes filed the petition for the Mulai brothers while Attorney Simone Morris-Ramlall represented the others. Each provided the services pro bono.
Terrence Sahadeo and Muntaz Ali were condemned to death for the 1985 murder of 18-year-old Roshana Kassim of Sheet Anchor, East Canje. They had been convicted with Shireen Khan. They have been in prison for over 28 years. Shireen Khan died in the New Amsterdam Female Prison in December 2009. Before she died she expressed the hope that she could be paroled so that she could see her grandchildren for the first time. She never got that wish.
One other woman remains on Death Row.
Ganga Deolall was arrested on October 26, 1993 and charged with the murder of Yvette Lall on November 3, 1993. The body of 29-year-old Yvette Lall washed up at the La Grange koker with a slab of concrete in her stomach and a crankshaft tied to it. The victim’s head had been placed in a plastic bag, and her intestines removed from her gaping stomach before she was submerged in the Demerara River, according to the evidence.
On November 22, 1995, Deolall was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal and affirmed the death sentence on January 30, 1997. He had his death warrant read to him twice but he got a stay of execution on both occasions.
Lallman and Bharatraj Mulai have been on Death Row since July 1994, when they were sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of Doodnauth Seeram at Mahaica Creek. The Court of Appeal set aside the death sentence and ordered a retrial in 1995. Again the Mulais were convicted and sentenced to death a year later. The Court of Appeal affirmed the sentence on appeal.
After several requests to the government for information on the case in April 1998, December 1998, December 2000, August 2001 and March 2003 went unanswered; the United Nations Human Rights Committee concluded in August 2004 that the brothers’ trial had been unfair and recommended “an effective remedy, including commutation of their death sentences.
The Vaux brothers were arrested and charged with the July 1993 murder of Baiwant Jaikissoon, an airport worker, and were subsequently sentenced to death after being convicted for the murder on December 19, 1997. They subsequently appealed their conviction to the Court of Appeal of Guyana, and their appeal was dismissed on December 07, 2000.
For a number of years the International Human Rights Commission has been plugging for the abolition of the death penalty in many countries. It described the death penalty as barbaric.