In Guyana, two women were sentenced to death by Justice Sandil Kissoon in the Berbice High Court on March 30, 2018. The sentence came six years after they were charged with the murder of Abdool Shakeel Majid, a Guyana-born American citizen.
The news made headlines in Canada, Britain, the United States and the countries of the Caribbean. Hemwattie Abdulla, 43, formerly of Albion, Corentyne and of Ozone Park, Queens, New York; and her accomplice, 49-year-old Surojinie Permaul of Belvedere, Corentyne; were found guilty of the murder of Majid, Abdulla’s husband.
The case against Abdulla was that she and her husband, Majid, arrived in Guyana in April 2012 on a two-week vacation. In Guyana, she arranged the murder of her husband with her longtime friend, Permaul, whom she paid US$5,000.
Majid was involved in an accident in the USA and had received a huge financial reward, which his relatives suspected might have caused his death.
The increase in senseless murders in Guyana has prompted calls for the death penalty despite a moratorium on its use since 1997. No one has been executed since 1997. Most death sentences have been commuted to life in prison. In the last two decades, more than 140 countries have abolished capital punishment. The European Union and Britain have been at the forefront in the fight to abolish the death penalty, which they deemed barbaric and an abuse of human rights.
However, there was an increase in executions in 2014 — 2,466 death sentences in 55 countries resulted in 678 executions. This figure excludes China, which executed more persons than the rest of the world combined. In 2013, China executed 2,405 persons by lethal injection. There is no evidence to suggest that there are fewer murders in countries with the death penalty. Capital punishment has not deterred murderers, some say. The other school of thought is that once the person is executed for certain, he will not commit another crime.
In the United States, the death penalty has become a sensitive issue for the simple reason that on average, ten persons are being released from prison every month due to the fact that they were wrongfully convicted and were either imprisoned or sentenced to death. As a result, several states have abolished the death penalty.
In Guyana, President Granger has reiterated that he does relish taking lives wantonly and that he has no intention to order the execution of anyone unless guided by public consensus in a referendum. He also promised not to enforce the death penalty, but was adamant that the government would not remove it from the law books because the threat of terrorism requires the existence of the death penalty.
The sentencing of the two women to death in Guyana came at a time when several countries have passed laws that women may not be subjected to the death penalty. In other countries, the law prohibits the execution of women by the state.
In some countries, expectant mothers and mothers of small children are excluded from capital punishment on the premise that the life of an innocent child may be lost or jeopardized if his or her mother is executed. In almost every country, it is illegal to execute a pregnant woman. Of the 92 countries that retain the death penalty, 83 have passed laws prohibiting the execution of pregnant women and women with small children.
In Guyana, a killer who sentenced to death was actually saved because she managed to get pregnant while on Death Row. She was clever.
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