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Bahamas: Further information on the death penalty

, Index number: AMR 14/004/1999

On 14 December 1999 the Bahamas' highest court of appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), dismissed constitutional motions filed by John Higgs and David Mitchell. Both men are now at imminent risk of execution.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 14/04/99
15 December 1999
Further information on EXTRA 101/99 (AMR 14/01/99, 4 August 1999) and follow-up
(AMR 14/03/99, 10 August 1999) - Death Penalty
BAHAMAS John Higgs
David Mitchell
On 14 December 1999 the Bahamas’ highest court of appeal, the Judicial Committee
of the Privy Council (JCPC), dismissed constitutional motions filed by John
Higgs and David Mitchell. Both men are now at imminent risk of execution.
The JCPC ruled by a majority of three to two that it would not be unconstitutional
to execute the two men while their petitions were pending before the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as more than 18 months had elapsed
since the petitions were filed with the international human rights monitoring
body.
The court also ruled that prison conditions for those under sentence of death
did not amount to inhuman and degrading punishment. This was strongly criticized
by the two dissenting judges, Lord Steyn and Lord Cooke of Thorndon, who stated
that the conditions were so appalling as to amount to inhuman and degrading
punishment, and that the men’s sentences should therefore be commuted.
John Higgs was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murder of his wife, Joan
Higgs. He was retried in August 1996, and again sentenced to death. David
Mitchell was convicted of the 1994 murder of Horst and Traude Henning, and
sentenced to death in November that year.
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/
airmail letters, in English or your own language:
- urging the government to commute the death sentences of John Higgs and David
Mitchell;
- urging the government to take into account the dissenting judgements of Lord
Steyn and Lord Cooke of Thorndon on the constitutional motion, which called
strongly for commutation of their sentences;
- reminding the government that despite the ruling of the Judicial Committee
of the Privy Council to dismiss their constitutional motions, the Bahamian
government has an obligation as a member of the Organisation of American States
not to execute John Higgs and David Mitchell while their petitions are pending
before the IACHR;
- urging the government to uphold the integrity of the Inter-American System
for the protection of human rights by staying the executions pending the
decisions of the IACHR on the men’s petitions;
- expressing sympathy for the relatives of Joan Higgs, Horst and Traude Henning,
along with all victims of violent crime and their relatives;
- pointing out that the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and
degrading punishment, which violates the right to life and has a brutalizing
effect on all involved in its application;
- urging the government to implement the 1999 recommendation of the United
Nations Commission on Human Rights to establish a moratorium on executions
with a view to completely abolishing the death penalty.
APPEALS TO:
Prime Minister
The Honourable Hubert Ingraham
Sir Cecil V. Wallace Centre
PO Box CB 10980
Nassau, Bahamas
Telegrams: Prime Minister, Nassau, Bahamas
Telephone: + 1 242 322 2805
Faxes: + 1 242 327 5806
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
2
Attorney General
The Honourable Janet Bostwick
Attorney General
PO Box N-3007
Nassau, BAHAMAS
Telegrams: Attorney General, Bahamas
Telephone: + 1 242 322 1141
Faxes: + 1 242 322 2255
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
COPIES TO:
The Governor General
His Excellency Sir Orville Turnquest
Governor General
PO Box N-8301
Nassau, Bahamas
Telephone: + 1 242 22 1875
Faxes: + 1 242 322 4659
and to diplomatic representatives of the Bahamas accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

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