A delegation of international experts is in Guyana, organized by the European Union and the British High Commission, to examine the use of capital punishment and its possible abolition locally.
The delegation arrived on Monday November 12 and will remain until November 14 as their work is being supported by Guyanese lawyer Nigel Hughes. Those who are part of the team include Co-Executive Director of The Death Penalty Project (UK) Saul Lehrfreund ; Deputy Director of Equal Justice Initiative (USA) Randy Susskind and Surinamese parliamentarians the Krishnakoemarie Mathoera and the Patrick Ciciel Kensenhuis.
According to a release from the European Union, during this period, meetings will be held with policymakers and key stakeholders including senior government ministers, members of parliament, the Bar Association of Guyana, criminal law practitioners and human rights advocates.
A public lecture will also be held at 09:00hrs on November 13 at the National Library in Georgetown to promote debate and increase understanding of key human rights issues relating to the use of the death penalty in Guyana.
“Although Guyana has not carried out any executions since 1997, death sentences continue to be imposed and there are currently 17 people on death row. “Guyana’s continued retention of capital punishment marks it as an outlier not only within the region, as it is the only South American country that still has the death penalty, but also on the global stage, where a majority of the world’s nations have now abolished capital punishment,” the release stated.
The document also reminded that the death penalty was imposed on Guyana through British colonial rule and that since then, the UK itself has rejected capital punishment now vocal in advocating for global abolition.
“A combination of factors were behind the UK’s decision to abolish the death penalty in 1965, including a recognition that the punishment disproportionately affects the most marginalised and vulnerable members of society and, importantly, could not be imposed without error, arbitrariness and cruelty,” the document added.
It noted that this was made evident through several high-profile executions which raised concerns that the innocent, mentally disabled and vulnerable were being executed.
The EU release added: “Wrongful convictions remain a distressing reality wherever the death penalty is imposed. In 2016, at least 60 death row prisoners were exonerated around the world.
The inevitability of error in capital sentencing will be a recurring theme throughout the delegation. In particular, attention will be drawn to the experience of the USA, where for every nine people executed one death row prisoner has been exonerated.”
The Death Penalty Project is an independent legal action charity housed and supported by London legal firm Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP. For more than 30 years, The Death Penalty Project has worked to promote and protect the human rights of those facing the death penalty.