The Caribbean Court of Justice is the final Court of Appeal for Barbados. Barbados retains the death penalty for ordinary crimes including murder and treason. In accordance with two decisions from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Boyce et al v Barbados and Cadogan v Barbados) (see below), where the Court ruled that the mandatory death sentence imposed on all those convicted of murder in Barbados was a violation of the right to life, the Government of Barbados agreed to amend its national legislation to remove the mandatory imposition of the death penalty. However, as of 1st December 2012, the proposed legislation was still pending before Parliament. For more details of the cases and the proposed legislative amendments, please click here.
Barbados has been a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since 1973 and has acceded to the First Optional Protocol allowing for the right of individual petition to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. It has not signed nor ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. Barbados ratified the American Convention on Human Rights in 1982 and accepted the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2000. It has not signed the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.
As of 1st December 2012, there are five prisoners on death row in Barbados.
Notable cases that we have worked on include:
In a landmark judgment delivered in November 2007, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the mandatory death penalty violates Articles 4(1) and 4(2) of the American Convention on Human Rights —which prohibits arbitrary treatment and limits the death penalty to the most serious crimes. The Court implied that the mandatory death penalty also violates the right to humane treatment and the right to a fair trial under the Convention. The Court ordered Barbados to amend its Constitution and laws accordingly. For further details, please click here.
In July 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights again found that the mandatory death sentence imposed on all those convicted of murder in Barbados violates the right to life as it is arbitrary and fails to limit the application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes. In their judgment, the Court also found that Mr Cadogan was denied a fair trial as his mental state at the time of the offence was never fully evaluated by mental heath professionals. The Court ordered that in all future capital cases, psychiatric assessments should invariably be carried out, especially where the death penalty is still mandatory. For more details, click here.