Barbados—Human Rights Council—January 2018

The Advocates for Human Rights, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and the Greater Caribbean for Life submitted a joint stakeholder report addressing the death penalty in Barbados to the Human Rights Council for the 2018 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Barbados. This submission addresses Barbados’ current death penalty policies and suggests a range of recommendations for the upcoming UPR.

Barbados has maintained a de facto moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty since its last reported execution in 1984, but courts in Barbados sentenced three people to death as recently as 2016. Additionally, Barbados does not limit the death penalty to the most serious crimes. In the last UPR, Barbados received 19 recommendations from several countries regarding the death penalty, including suggestions to ratify the Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to eliminate mandatory death sentences. Barbados accepted recommendations to finalize the process to abolish its mandatory death sentence scheme, to promote and increase opportunities for public and open debates on the death penalty, and to ratify the Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to abolish the death penalty. Yet Barbados has made little progress toward implementing these recommendations. Barbados insists that lack of public, bipartisan support for abolition explains its unwillingness to abolish the mandatory death penalty and to instate a formal moratorium on the death penalty. News reports from the last two years, however, demonstrate the presence of dialogue and the potential for progress regarding the mandatory death penalty.

As of 2016, 13 inmates reside on death row. Despite Barbados’ commitment to abolishing the mandatory death penalty, it remains in use. A draft bill introduced in 2014, which would amend the Offences against the Person Act to eliminate the mandatory death penalty in favor a discretionary penalty and set a five-year statute of limitation after which death sentences will be commuted to life imprisonment, seems to be stalled in Parliament. The 2014 Bill is paired with the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 that would support the development of a discretionary penalty system for convicted murderers and the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2014 that would require psychiatric evaluations for persons convicted of murder. Since 2015, there have been no public reports of updates as to the status of these bills.

The joint stakeholder report suggests a variety of recommendations for the Government of Barbados. Recommendations include: publishing statistics about persons on death row; imposing a moratorium on the mandatory death penalty; raising public awareness; abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with human-rights centered legislation; and ratifying key international agreements with regard to the death penalty.