EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 14/08/95
EXTRA 90/95 Flogging 7 August 1995
THE BAHAMASLeavon WILLIAMSON
Leavon Williamson and Melvin Saunders have been sentenced to be flogged in
The Bahamas. Part of Williamson's sentence is reported to have already been
Williamson, who was convicted of the rape and armed robbery of a woman, is
the first person to receive a flogging sentence since corporal punishment was
reinstated into law in the Bahamas in 1991. On 18 July he was sentenced to
a 25-year prison term and 12 strokes - six of the cat-o'-nine-tails and six
of "the rod". Ten days later, Melvin Saunders was sentenced to the same
punishment in addition to a 25-year prison sentence, for the rape, assault
and armed robbery of two American women tourists.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned by reports that part of Williamson's
corporal punishment was carried out before the expiry of a 21-day period in
which the defendant has the chance to lodge an appeal to a higher court. He
was reportedly given six strokes with "the rod" on 21 July, three days after
the sentence was imposed. Lawyers acting on his behalf have now lodged an
appeal to prevent the rest of the flogging. It is not clear whether any part
of the punishment imposed on Melvin Saunders has yet been carried out, although
his lawyer is reported to be intending to appeal.
Williamson was reportedly not given legal representation at his trial and
Amnesty International is concerned that this and the almost immediate
carrying-out of part of the sentence may have prevented the defendant from
receiving a fair trial. Legal aid is only available in the Bahamas for those
charged with the capital offence of murder.
Amnesty International believes that the infliction of corporal punishment
against offenders serves no justifiable penal purpose and is brutalizing to
all involved in the process. Furthermore, the use of corporal punishment
constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and as such its imposition
contravenes Article 17(1) of the Bahamas Constitution, as well as international
standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Although corporal punishment was abolished in The Bahamas in 1984, it was
reinstated as a punishment for rape and certain other crimes, in October 1991.
There was a change of government in the Bahamas in 1992 following parliamentary
elections, and the current Prime Minister has stated publicly that he is opposed
to the use of the cat-o'-nine-tails, calling it "barbaric". However he said
he would not prevent judges from imposing sentences of corporal punishment.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please telephone or send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or your own language:
- expressing concern at the flogging sentences imposed on Leavon Williamson
and Melvin Saunders;
- expressing dismay at reports that part of Leavon Williamson's sentence was
carried out before the expiry of the 21-day appeal period;
- urging that no more of the two flogging sentences be carried out;