The Bahamas –Human Rights Council – Death Penalty –June 2017

The Advocates for Human Rights, together with The Greater Caribbean for Life and The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, submitted a Joint Stakeholder Report addressing the death penalty in the Bahamas for the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review.

The Bahamas is considered to have a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, with no reported executions since 2000, however there have recently been calls for an end to this moratorium. Although it has made strides in implementing recommendations on human rights, The Bahamas did not accept recommendations for death penalty abolition in the 2013 UPR.

The Constitution of the Bahamas specifically allows the death penalty; it can be imposed in cases of murder, treason, genocide, and terrorist acts resulting in death or serious harm. Implementation of the death penalty is not mandatory, and judges are encouraged to exercise discretion. But, the government uses the rising crime rate as a pretext for resuming executions. While the constitution guarantees a fair hearing, problems including heavy caseloads, high rates of crime, and difficulties in processing evidence impede the Bahamian judicial system. The situation is further exacerbated by the lack of free legal counsel for defendants.

The authors of the report propose the following recommendations for the Government of The Bahamas:

  • Impose an official, de jure moratorium on the death penalty, effective immediately going forward;
  • Abolish the death penalty and replace it with a sentence that is fair, proportionate, and respects international human rights standards;
  • Ratify key international agreements regarding the death penalty;
  • Ensure that all defendants have access to adequate and timely legal counsel immediately on arrest and throughout all subsequent criminal proceedings;
  • Collaborate with abolitionist civil society organizations in the region to conduct a comprehensive public awareness-raising campaign to educate the public about international human rights standards and alternatives to the death penalty.