Jamaica parliament votes to resume death penalty after 20-year moratorium

[JURIST] The Jamaican parliament on Tuesday voted 34-15 [JIS release; Jamaica Gleaner report], with 10 abstentions, to resume the use of the death penalty. Advocates for the measure cited the country's extremely high murder rate [BBC backgrounder] as justification for resuming executions. Opponents of the practice, including Jamaicans for Justice [advocacy website] executive director Carolyn Gomes, have argued that the country should increase efforts [Jamaica Gleaner report] to arrest and charge criminals rather than reinstate capital punishment. Before executions, which are carried out by hanging, can resume, the Jamaican senate must also approve the measure.

Jamaica's Offenses Against the Person Act [PDF text] already provides for the death penalty, but the country has had an effective moratorium on the punishment since 1988. In 1993 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council [official website], still the former British colony's highest court of appeal, ruled [judgment text; JG backgrounder] that holding a person awaiting execution for more than five years constitutes "cruel and unusual" punishment in violation of the Jamaican constitution [text], but did not outlaw the penalty itself.



 

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