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Sentenced to death without execution: Why capital punishment has not yet been abolished in the Eastern Caribbean and Barbados

  • Studies and Surveys
  • 7 Apr 2020

By Roger Hood and Florence Seemungal with the assistance of Amaya Athill

Six independent nations in the Eastern Caribbean – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, all members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) – and Barbados, retain the death penalty for murder. Most of these countries have not executed anyone sentenced to death for at least ten years with the vast majority not carrying out an execution for more than twenty years.

This independent empirical study, which presents the views of 100 ‘opinion formers’, drawn from the seven jurisdictions, aims to shed light on why these countries hang on to capital punishment and what are the barriers to the complete abolition of the death penalty in these nations. The respondents were asked about their knowledge of the use of capital punishment in their respective countries and the extent to which, and why, they either supported the policy of retaining the death penalty or were in favour of its abolition, as well as the factors, beliefs, and assumptions that appeared to account for their government’s unwillingness to embrace complete abolition.

Key findings include:-

  • Across these seven nations, 48 of the interviewees favoured retention of the death penalty (18 of them strongly) and 52 were in favour of its abolition (30 of them strongly) 
  • Of those who favoured retention of the death penalty, only a minority were committed to retaining it: only 10 of 48 interviewees said they would ‘strongly oppose an Act of Parliament to completely abolish the death penalty by definitely voting against it’.
  • Respondents believed the best strategies to persuade their respective governments to embrace reform were: ‘through creating an influential civil society pressure group ‘Citizens Against the Death Penalty’; by ‘mounting a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the death penalty’; or by ‘persuading the government to establish a high-level commission to report on the subject’.

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