Jun 20, 2016 News
US, UK, differ
“Some feel that the death penalty is a deterrent and some feel that it is not…but David Granger does not have any intention of approving the execution of anyone…
“ – Pres. Granger
“We believe that there are certain heinous crimes for which the death penalty is appropriate. We believe that there are some people who cannot be rehabilitated, or pose such a grave risk to the society and that the state has the authority to decide that the death penalty should be applied through a fair judicial process…”
– Deputy Chief of Mission, Bryan Hunt
By: Kiana Wilburg
What really deters potential criminals; the certainty of punishment or the severity of it? For those who believe in the latter, capital punishment ranks as an appropriately extreme sanction for the worst of the worst in societies.
But the death penalty proves to be a sensitive topic and there are many elements that are at play when leading public figures try to take a stance on whether it should be abolished.
Commenting on the “eye for an eye” form of punishment, President David Granger agrees that his Government has not made public its unified position on the subject.
In an interview with Kaieteur News on the show, The Public Interest, the Head of State acknowledged Government has allowed the death penalty to remain in the statute books, but made it clear that no one has been executed in a couple of decades. In fact, the last execution in Guyana was conducted on August 25, 1997. Two men were hanged that day.
Michael Archer and Peter Adams were executed for the 1986 murder of Rasheeda Khan of Corentyne, Berbice during a robbery. Prior to that, Ayube Khan, a drug addict, was hanged on February 12, 1996, for murdering a schoolboy. Khan had stabbed the child to death in the Sacred Heart School yard while stealing the boy’s bicycle.
Four months later, Rockcliffe Ross, also a drug addict, was executed on February 12, 1996, for the murder of Vibert Mohan, who was robbed and knifed to death on his first day at work.
The President said, “…Some feel that the death penalty is a deterrent and some feel that it is not…some feel that the death penalty is perhaps best kept on the books as a last resort…but David Granger does not have any intention of approving the execution of anyone.”
While there is no single statement out of the Government on whether it will abolish the death penalty, the President said that in due course, his administration will arrive at a position. For the time being, there are opposing views.
But outgoing Deputy Chief of Mission, Bryan Hunt made it clear during a recent interview that he believes the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for certain heinous crimes. He said that he would not encourage Guyana to make swift moves to remove it from its books.
“I don’t think our views are hidden on this matter. The USA does not believe that the death penalty is in and of itself cruel and unusual punishment. We do not believe that it needs to be necessarily abolished. We believe that at the federal level and in the vast majority of our states that there are certain heinous crimes for which the death penalty is appropriate.
“We believe that there are some people who cannot be rehabilitated through the prison system or pose such a grave risk to the society and that the state has the authority to decide that the death penalty should be applied through a fair judicial process. And I think that if we are going to talk about the death penalty from the USA point of view then that’s what matters to us.”
The US diplomat said that if someone is going to be executed, then USA would consider such to be perfectly acceptable, but it should be limited in its application. Hunt stressed that the death penalty should be applied through due process of law and after a free and fair trial where the accused is afforded all of the rights that are appropriate to a criminally accused individual.
“We believe that only after that, where a person’s guilt has been overwhelmingly established and it has been shown that the crime or the person is beyond rehabilitation, then the death penalty should be applied. We also believe that there should be an open appellate process to ensure that that person has the right to prove that he or she has been wrongfully convicted.
The US diplomat said that if Guyana is to continue with the death penalty then it must ensure that due process of law is applied and it is used in a limited manner.
While Hunt holds this view, the United Kingdom which has been supportive of the abolition of this form of punishment globally, encourages Guyana to follow the same route.
This is according to UK High Commissioner, James Quinn. Quinn said he would not only add that Guyana should remove the death penalty from its law books but the UK would also encourage the nation to do so swiftly.
Kaieteur News had interviewed Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan on the matter and he made it clear that he is “completely against” the death penalty. Ramjattan professed that he has the statistics to show that the use of such an extreme form of punishment is not a deterrent.
The Public Security Minister was reminded, however, of his Government’s stance in the National Assembly when it piloted the amended Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill which included the death penalty.
The politician said that while he admits that was the case, he believes that such a form of punishment would “stop a certain set of people who seek to bring terror on a group of persons or a nation”. He insists that in such circumstances, it would work. Ramjattan noted in the same breath nonetheless, that he is personally against the death penalty being used in the criminal justice system.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo sought to stay on the fence with regard to this matter. He asserted that while he is against the death penalty, he believes that there are some cases where it is applicable. Jagdeo said that when it comes to certain heinous acts of violence against women and children, the death penalty is warranted.
Jagdeo emphasized however that the coalition administration seems to be speaking from two sides of its mouth when it comes to its stance on the death penalty.
“One time they are saying they are against it, yet, unashamedly, they rush the AML Bill through the National Assembly without even giving it a second thought that they might look hypocritical, since it has the death penalty included in it as a form of punishment,” the Opposition Leader added.
It must be noted, however, that not a single individual was executed during Jagdeo’s tenure as President, although some of the most heinous crimes were committed during this period, which included the ‘crime wave’ period of wanton killings, executions and kidnappings.
While Jagdeo holds the aforementioned view, the UK High Commissioner noted that there are no circumstances under which the UK believes that the use of the death penalty is legitimate.
He noted too that even though it is the Government’s prerogative to pass the laws it wants, the UK’s view remains that there are no circumstances in which the death penalty is an appropriate sentence.
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