A new joint project will help build civil society engagement on the issue of the death penalty in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean states. Apart from one execution in Saint Kitts and Nevis in 2008, more than 20 years have passed without an execution in the region. Death row lies empty in Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica and Saint Lucia; and in Barbados a recent decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice has declared the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional. Yet, despite judicial restriction of the death penalty over the past two decades, there has been little political movement towards abolition.
The Death Penalty Project is leading a joint European Union (EU) funded project with the Greater Caribbean for Life, the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill and the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association as partners.
Through a range of outreach, research and advocacy activities, the project will help to move the debate on the death penalty away from retributive arguments and a focus on crime prevention to build greater awareness of the failures and limitations of the death penalty and the human rights issues associated with its use. The advocacy capacity of student groups, church groups and other civil society organisations will be enhanced through locally run campaigns, film screenings and events.
The project was formally launched with an event at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus in Barbados on Friday, 22 June 2018.
On that occasion, Annette So, Deputy Director of The Death Penalty Project said:
Whilst the use of the death penalty has been dramatically restricted across the Caribbean, it is clear that wider political and public engagement on the issue is needed. We are excited to be collaborating with an excellent range of partners in the region on this new venture, which we hope will create an environment for broader change.
EU Representative Luc Patzelt, Programme Manager Security, Human Rights and Civil Society, said:
“The European Union views the death penalty as a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to deter criminal behaviour and which represents a grave denial of human dignity and integrity.
The project is on the right track with its dual approach of: (1) a top-down campaign to promote abolition of the death penalty through the political process by engaging with policy-makers; and (2) a bottom-up campaign to facilitate common understanding on the issues surrounding the death penalty through civil society-led activities.”
Over the course of three years the project will engage different audiences in dialogue on the death penalty, helping to build and sustain a civil society movement for abolition in the region.