Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Conference…
While efforts are underway to combat terrorism globally, Kenyan Justice of Appeal Patrick Kiage has highlighted the importance of balancing Anti-terrorism legislation with the tenets of human rights.
Speaking with Kaieteur News following a presentation before the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges’ Conference Association, (CMJA), held at the Marriott Hotel in Kingston, Justice Kiage noted that while there is a move globally towards the abolition of the death penalty; a key component of the anti- terrorism legislation, countries have been increasingly signing on to optional protocols regarding the death penalty.
“The death penalty is also related to all capital offences such as murder, treason and so forth but there is no absolute requirement on international law that the death penalty be abolished.
“What we have is an optional protocol which deals with the death penalty. The number of countries that have been signing on to the optional protocol has been increasing over time and we also have some countries even though they not have signed the optional protocol, the court has strongly asserted that the death penalty is not constitutional.
“For example, the case of Makwanyane versus South Africa.”
Justice Kiage said, too, that while the views on the matter may differ from country to country, “In the end, society must be convinced that anti -terrorism legislation does not trump human rights.”
“I think it is important to maintain security; that our society and communities are generally safe; that we protect society from the evil and murderous acts of terrorism.
“But even as, we prevent and punish terrorism, we must do so being careful to maintain the essential dignity of individuals and the values, we hold dear such as, a fair trial and maintaining the dignity of all human kind.”
“We have to remain a free and democratic society, where the rule of law is what operates, so we should operate in dealing with terrorism, within the law and not break the law, in the name of trying to pursue terrorism,” the judge further emphasized.
In recent times, Guyana has been facing consistent pressure from human rights bodies and international organisations towards having the death penalty removed from its statue books.
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, had explained that even with the call from the European Union (EU) to have Guyana abolish the death penalty, the government is in no hurry to do so, since the laws dealing with the countering of terrorism require the existence of the penalty.
However, President David Granger has asserted that the option of a referendum remains open. The President had reassured representatives of the United Nation that he does not have any intention of assenting to the death penalty, even though it remains on the books.
President Granger said that he is willing to be guided by public opinion. “…If there was a deadlock, we could go to a referendum. Let the people say what they want to occur in this jurisdiction; in the state of Guyana.”
He also pointed to the fact that such consultation reflects openness and transparency.
“I am aware of the advice which has been given. I have my personal views, which I have stated publicly; but I would say (that) in a final analysis, the democratic course of action should be to rely on the expressed intention of the National Assembly and, in the final analysis, the people themselves.
“If the people want to go to a referendum, it is something that is very expensive, but let the people speak,” the Head of State asserted.
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