General — 17 January 2014 — by Adele Ramos
Abolition of death penalty debated by OAS Permanent Council

The death penalty in the Americas was the subject of a debate held today by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) at its headquarters in Washington, DC, USA.

Belize is not among the thirteen countries in the Americas which have acceded to the OAS Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty, which binds states parties to an agreement to “not apply the death penalty in their territory to any person subject to their jurisdiction.”

According to a release from the OAS, “Numerous permanent Council representatives took the floor to explain the different positions of their countries on the death penalty, ranging from absolute opposition to those who consider the death penalty as the result of a democratic process and a debate that in many cases remains open.”

Mexico has been a frontline country promoting the debate. Emilio Rabasa, the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the OAS, reported that his mission called for the inclusion of the issue of the death penalty on the agenda, because for his country the matter, “from the perspective of promoting and protecting human rights, should be listed as a priority issue on the agenda of our Organization, its highest political authorities and its bodies and specialized mechanisms.”

Rabasa called for abolishing the death penalty in the region, and indicated that in recent years, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published the report “The Death Penalty in the Inter-American Human Rights System: From Restriction to Abolition.”

That report says that, “…courts of national jurisdiction have found the mandatory death penalty to be unconstitutional in countries including Saint Lucia (The Queen v. Hughes), Dominica (Balson v. The State), Belize (Reyes v. The Queen), The Bahamas (Bowe v. The Queen) and Grenada (Coard et al. v. Grenada), among other examples.”

The report added that, “Following this period of re-examination of the mandatory death penalty, a number of countries have abolished that aspect of the death penalty. The judges of Belize, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Guyana, among others, now have the discretion to impose lesser sentences.”

The release noted that the General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

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