Jul 23, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Attorney General (AG) and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, yesterday submitted to Judges of the Appeal Court that the issue over the constitutionality of the death penalty can only be fully remedied by Parliament.The Attorney General was at the time addressing the Court in the case of three coastguards who are appealing the death penalty sentence they were given for the 2009 murder of gold miner, Dwieve Kant Ramdass.
The case relates to Devon Gordon, Deon Greenidge and Sherwyn Harte, three former Guyana Defence Force coastguards, who were found guilty of the robbery and murder of Ramdass in 2013.
They were given the death penalty but have since applied to the Appeal Court to overturn their sentences by challenging the constitutionality of the sentence.
In his capacity as the State’s legal representative, the AG yesterday noted his contentions over the arguments of the attorneys of the appellants that essentially dubbed the death penalty unconstitutional.
Nandlall noted that while there are many civil arguments about the human rights as it relates to the death penalty, it is still legally a part of Guyana’s legal framework and constitution.
The AG noted that the remedies sought by the appellants could not be addressed via the Appeal Court.
“It is the duty of the judges to interpret the law not see what is good for society or not… your function primarily is that of interpreting the law and giving effect to that interpretation,” the AG said as he emphasised that the Court’s first allegiance is to the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land.
Further, the AG said that the Constitution, as is, gives protection to citizens against inhumane treatment. He said therefore, if the Constitution is to be amended, it must be done through the course, which is recommended by law.
“What they are asking for your honours, is for this hounourable court to step into the realm of Parliament and do what only Parliament can do and that is amend the Constitution – the supreme law – which cannot be done by the judiciary,” Nandlall stated.
The AG’s submission, which was also supported by Director Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, comes weeks after the Death Penalty Project, a London-based legal action charity sponsoring the legal team for the coastguards’ appeal noted the domino effects of the case, should the death penalty be declared unconstitutional.
The group which has provided free legal representation to those facing the death penalty in the Caribbean and around the world, believes that that if the landmark hearing is successful, it could not only see capital punishment abolished in Guyana, but has the potential to spark a domino effect across other countries that still retain the death penalty.
“A successful appeal will make Guyana the final country in South America to abolish the death penalty and influence other retentionist countries in the Caribbean and the wider Commonwealth,” the group said in a statement posted on its website.
Additionally, the group said that the case could lead to the removal of the death sentences of the fourteen other inmates on death row. The group predicts that these sentences will likely be replaced with lighter penalties.
So far, lawyers for the appellants, Nigel Hughes and Douglas Mendes, SC, from Trinidad & Tobago, have submitted that the death penalty is unconstitutional; and the punishment is arbitrary, irrational, disproportionate, and contrary to the constitutional principle of the rule of law.
The Death Penalty Project has facilitated the submission of expert reports from leading academics Carolyn Hoyle, Professor of Criminology at the University of Oxford, William Schabas, Professor of Law at Middlesex University; and Jeffrey Fagan, Professor of Law at Columbia University. They have provided evidence on the unavoidable risks of arbitrariness in any capital punishment system; that the imposition of the death penalty has no bearing on homicide rates; and that Guyana’s international obligations prohibit the state from resuming executions.
In one of its recent web postings on the matter, the Death Penalty Project outlined a number of factors surrounding the historic case, including the fact, that although no executions have been carried out in Guyana since 1997, the State continues to impose death sentences.
Saul Lehrfreund, Co-Executive Director of The Death Penalty Project, said: “This is a hugely significant case – the first challenge to the constitutionality of the death penalty in the Commonwealth Caribbean that could pave the way for abolition across the wider Region. It had previously been assumed that the constitution protected the death penalty itself from judicial challenge, but the appellants now contend that the death sentence violates core principles of the constitution and cannot be imposed on anyone for any crime. We hope the judges will grasp this opportunity to consign capital punishment to history.”
In 2013, the three former Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard ranks, Gordon, Greenidge and Harte, were found guilty of the robbery and murder of Ramdass. Following a trial, the judge exercised the discretion available to him and imposed death sentences on all three defendants.
The men had challenged their sentences and convictions at the Court of Appeal on January 11, 2021, the Court of Appeal granted the appellants leave to introduce fresh evidence at the hearing of their appeals.
The case is being heard by Justice of Appeal and Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards; Justice of Appeal, Dawn Gregory; and Justice of Appeal, Rishi Persaud, and is set to come up for its next hearing at the Court of Appeal in Kingston, Georgetown, on October 20 and October 21, 2021.
Sep 20, 2021Kaieteur News – The East Bank Football Association (EBFA), Academy Training Centre (ATC) has received a time boost with two corporate entities on the East Bank Corridor partnering with the...
Sep 20, 2021
Sep 20, 2021
Sep 19, 2021
Sep 19, 2021
Sep 19, 2021
Kaieteur News – There is a part of my theorising on the class structure in Guyana in this column that is going to be... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders The public health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has rightly focused the attention and... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]