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The challenge to the mandatory death penalty in the Commonwealth Caribbean

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  • Introduction: The death penalty is a subject that, in the words ofJustice Adrian Saunders of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, \"invariably elicits passionate comment.\" Such comment is particularly so within the states that make up the Commonwealth Caribbean, where rising rates of violent crime have led to strong public clamor for a swift and final response. The involvement of foreign courts and quasi-judicial international tribunals in limiting the actual use of the death penalty in the Caribbean has made the issue even more politically charged, leading to a strongly held perception that the judgments of these foreign bodies are unacceptable challenges to the very exercise of Caribbean national sovereignty. Throughout the Commonwealth Caribbean, various legal challenges have been brought to the imposition of the death penalty, the most recent series of which deals with the mandatory nature of the penalty's imposition for crimes of murder (or in some states, certain categories of murder). Efforts undertaken since the mid-1990s to challenge the legality of a mandatory death sentence finally paid off in 2002, when the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (Privy Council), acting as the highest appellate court for all but one of the Commonwealth Caribbean states, held in a series of three cases that such a sentence was contrary to the prohibition on inhuman punishment and therefore unconstitutional.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 2004 American Journal of International Law. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Harrington, J. (2004). The challenge to the mandatory death penalty in the Commonwealth Caribbean. American Journal of International Law, 98(1), 126-140.
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