EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 38/03/97
EXTRA 70/97 Death Penalty 16 May 1997
JAMAICA Samuel LINDSAY
According to information received by Amnesty International, three prisoners
on death row at St. Catherine District Prison, in Jamaica, Samuel Lindsay and
Lansford James have been moved to the condemned cell and may be executed in
the immediate future. If carried out, these executions will be the first in
Jamaica since 1988.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment as proclaimed in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
The last two prisoners to be executed in Jamaica were Stanford Dinnal and Nathan
Foster, on 18 February 1988. The method of execution is death by hanging. In
Jamaica, only the Governor General has the authority to grant commutations.
There is a growing tendency of Caribbean governments to speed up executions,
arguing that it will deter the high level of crime and violence. According
to press reports, violent crime has risen steadily in Jamaica. According to
a police report, between January 1996 and 11 December 1996, 979 murders and
1,425 shootings were reported. There were 780 murders in 1995.
The Minister of National Security and Justice, K. D. Knight, announced in the
Jamaican Parliament on 29 October 1996 that a new crime-fighting plan would
be implemented due to the high level of crime and violence in the country.
He also said that a limit of nine months will be placed on appeals on behalf
of people on death row to be made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
(JCPC) and to the United Nations. However, if the JCPC and the UN fail to make
any decision within the time limit the executions will take place. The Minister
of National Security and Justice also announced before the Parliament on 29
October 1996 that "These horrendous crimes [by death row criminals] have added
significantly to the fear of crime currently permeating every stratum of
In a four-day meeting in St. Kitts, in October 1996, Attorneys General and
Ministers responsible for Legal Affairs of the Caribbean Community countries
(CARICOM), discussed the total abolition of appeals to the JCPC. Three
countries, Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica, have agreed to the abolition of appeals
to the JCPC and the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Criminal Appeals.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals by fax, telegram, express or airmail
letters in English or in your own language, including as many of the following
points as possible:
- expressing concern at reports that Samuel Lindsay, Henry McKoy and Landsford
James have been moved to the condemned cell, signalling the imminent resumption
of executions in Jamaica;
- urging that these and all other pending death sentences be commuted;
- expressing deep concern at the intention to resume the use of the death penalty
in Jamaica after nearly nine years without executions, and urging the Governor
General not to be responsible for taking such a retrograde step;
- noting that detailed research in many countries has produced no evidence
that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishment
and pointing to the worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty;
- expressing sympathy for the victims of violent crime and their relatives.
Other points which may be added: