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PostSubject: RAMESH HANGING BILL 1998   Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:08 pm

HANSARD: Constitution (Amdt.) Bill Monday, September 21, 1998


Mr. Speaker, the facts of the cases show that in the matters which go before these human rights bodies the average time for to complete a matter is four years. As a matter of fact, the statistics would show that as long as these bodies have these applications, the death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago cannot be carried out within five years. I would like to quote some of the statistics that relate to some of the applications which I have been talking about in relation to the matters before the human rights bodies.

An example of the delay experienced before the human rights bodies is the case of Lal Seerattan who completed the appellate process before the courts in twoyears and two months. He petitioned the United Nations Human Rights Committee on December 17, 1990 and the committee determined his case on October 26, 1995, almost five years later. There are some other cases which I would give as to the time taken by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to determine applications from condemned prisoners.

10.50 a.m.

Daniel Pinto - three years and one month;
Balkisoon Soogrim - four years and one month;
Clyde Neptune - three years and 10 months;
Harold Ellerlie - five years and four months;
Robinson Lavend - four years.

Mr. Speaker, one sees that any government which is interested in dealing with the Pratt and Morgan case and in carrying out the death sentence has to take steps to deal with the applications before the human rights body.

This Government looked at the applications which were before these bodies over a period of time. One would see that in these applications what happened was that after the condemned prisoner finishes his application before the Privy Council he and his lawyers send the same facts to the human rights bodies. The procedures before the human rights bodies are very bureaucratic and it promotes delay. For example, he can file one petition and the Government has to answer to that petition. He is entitled to file a supplemental petition and the Government has to answer to that petition. There are cases where they file five and six petitions and supplemental petitions and the procedure before the human rights bodies is that there is no time-frame for these matters to be completed. The human rights body, for example the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, can then decide that it wants to have an on-site hearing. That would mean that the Commission can visit the country and have an on-site hearing. The Commission can also decide it wants to refer the matter to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights. These are all provided for in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

One has to ask: if it was the law at that time that delays before these bodies could prevent the carrying out of the death sentence, would Trinidad and Tobago have joined that protocol? I venture to say no because any government which was going to join that protocol would have been saying that they were, in effect, joining it knowing that the death penalty would be virtually abolished in Trinidad and Tobago.
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PostSubject: Re: RAMESH HANGING BILL 1998   Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:28 pm

Ramesh: Implement the death penalty
By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, December 27 2009
Maharaj insisted that he would move quickly to reinstitute capital punishment in cases of heinous crimes if he became Trinidad and Tobago’s next prime minister.
He also assured that the measure would send a clear message to criminals that the Government was serious about dealing with the scourge.

“The death penalty is the law of Trinidad Tobago and it ought to be implemented in cases such as brutal murders. And that is the position.

“Yes, there are changes to be made, there are changes which I made (as AG) to be law for the death penalty, that it should only be implemented in respect of certain categories of murders. That law has not been implemented by this Government.”,113203.html
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PostSubject: Re: RAMESH HANGING BILL 1998   Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:29 pm

Peter Richards

PORT OF SPAIN, May 18 2000 (IPS) - The Trinidad and Tobago government is gearing itself up for a long battle in its bid to re-introduce legislation which would have the effect of speeding up the execution of convicted killers.

The Basdeo Panday administration has indicated its willingness to fight anyone seeking to oppose the re-introduction of the Constitution Amendment No 2 Bill, which was defeated in Parliament two years ago. The government has not said whether there will be changes to the original legislation.

The previous bill had said “where a person has been convicted of a criminal offence in which the sentence of death has been imposed, and the time for appealing against the conviction of death has expired, or a petition or application to the Privy Council by the person has been refused, abandoned or withdrawn or dismissed, and the death warrant has been signed by the President, the High court shall have no jurisdiction to hear an application against the execution of the death warrant.”

Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, a former human rights advocate, has laid the groundwork for the new battle by launching a scathing attack on regional and international human rights groups, which he accused of having “no respect for our Constitution”.

“To serve their own ends, they would override this country’s Constitution, while the entire society is placed at risk as convicted murderers shield behind these human rights groups and their lobbies to escape the death penalty,” says Maharaj, who once headed a human rights organisation here before joining the government.

“The Government of Trinidad and Tobago maintains that the question of whether capital punishment should be abolished is a matter which is solely the responsibility of individual governments and Parliaments. International law recognises this principle,” he said.

The London-based Amnesty International has dismissed Maharaj’s statements as “grossly inaccurate” saying he seemed to be “deliberately misleading the nation’s population about international human rights law.”

Amnesty said the government’s motive for re-introducing the legislation was to allow for the execution of prisoners before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Commission have ruled on their cases.

Maharaj said these human rights groups which encourage applications from condemned killers were “purely concerned in saving the lives of the condemned prisoners, even if that means disregarding the rights of the victims and the public interest.”

But newspaper columnist and former university lecturer Denis Solomon has dismissed the government’s accusation saying that it is ignoring the fact that its membership in the conventions that give its citizens the right to appeal to these human rights bodies “was a voluntary undertaking by Trinidad and Tobago to join the rest of the hemisphere in promoting the principles of justice elaborated by civilised nations over the centuries.”

He recalls the first attempt by the government to get the legislation passed. “The icing on the cake was that the Bill would have been retroactive, it would have applied to people who had been sentenced before it became law.”

Solomon says the government’s decision to bring back the legislation should be viewed with alarm since “a sinister implication of the Attorney General’s move is that if he is to hang the people whose cases are being delayed, he will again have to make the Bill retroactive.”

The Constitution Amendment No 2 Bill, popularly known as the “Hanging Bill” here, was soundly defeated two years ago in Parliament after the opposition Peoples National Movement (PNM) failed to give the required two-thirds majority needed. Both the government and the opposition mounted public platforms seeking support from the population and even made it an issue in the Local Government Elections last year.

The opposition had based its rejection of the legislation on the government’s withdrawal from the Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and from the American Convention on Human Rights.

The PNM has promised that on regaining political office it will reverse the situation. But Maharaj, in informing Parliament last week about the government’s desire to re-introduce the “Hanging Bill”, called for the support of the opposition.

“I am sure that if the Parliament gets another opportunity to pass this law, the people would want the opposition to support this government,” Maharaj said to outbursts of laughter from the opposition benches.

The government is basing its arguments on re-introducing the “Hanging Bill” on a number of factors, among them, the growing number of killers having their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Since 1998, President Arthur NR Robinson has commuted the death sentence passed on 23 convicted murderers, all of whom Maharaj argues had “suffered delays in having their appeals heard before the Court of Appeal, causing the time frames in Pratt and Morgan to be exceeded.”

The British Privy Council, the court of last resort for many Caribbean countries, ruled in 1993 that the death sentences of Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan – who were convicted of murder in Jamaica – should be commuted to life imprisonment because they had spent more than five years on death row. The Council said holding prisoners on death row for longer than five years represented cruel punishment.

Maharaj said the total number of death sentences, which have had to be commuted by the state since the Privy Council ruling on Pratt and Morgan was 73.

But Amnesty International has disputed Maharaj’s account. “The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council recently ruled that if these (human rights) bodies take a prolonged time to examine cases, this time will not count towards the five-year limit,” it said.

The government says since Mar. 20, 1999, of the 69 persons on death row, 14 have appeals pending before the Court of Appeal, while 19 others have appeals before the Privy Council, the country’s highest court.

The other 39 condemned prisoners have appeals outstanding before the Inter-American Commission and the Inter American Court of Human Rights.

“The recent tendency of condemned prisoners to re-petition the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for a second time, has resulted in some prisoners having petitions before both the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights and before the Court of Appeal or the Privy Council,” Maharaj said.

Now Maharaj says the re-introduction of the “Hanging Bill” would have the effect of providing a time frame to complete their hearings.

Earlier this year, the government quietly and without much fanfare, withdrew the country from the Optional Protocol to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, after the UN body had rejected the country’s partial withdrawal from the Human Rights Committee. The UN Human Rights Committee had also indicated that Trinidad and Tobago could not prohibit death row prisoners from applying to it.

The decision to withdraw from the UN body was therefore seen as part of the strategy by the Panday administration for the resumption of execution of convicted murderers.

In 1998, Trinidad and Tobago withdrew from the human rights covenant of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Last year, 10 people p nine over one weekend – were executed despite international condemnation and appeals for clemency. However, efforts by the authorities to execute other convicted killers have been hampered by appeals from prisoners to the UN Human Rights Committee.

Maharaj says the government is now awaiting the outcome of the Jamaican appeal case “Neville Lewis and Others Versus the Attorney General of Jamaica” before proceeding to apply to the Privy Council to remove the stay of execution against two condemned men here.

Trinidad and Tobago government says it believes the Inter-American system had “sufficient time to complete” the matters involving the two condemned killers.

“Notwithstanding the obstacles which are placed in the way of the government in implementing the death penalty, the government is determined that the lawful penalty for murder must be carried out in accordance with the law,” Maharaj said.
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PostSubject: Re: RAMESH HANGING BILL 1998   Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:30 pm

The New Hanging Bill

October 30, 2000
By Kim Johnson

IN its most recent avatar the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2000, which has been laid in Parliament, shows that Attorney General Ramesh Maharaj has both the tenacity and the belligerence of a pitbull.

And if there's anyone who brings those traits out in him (more than the Chief Justice) it is people who frustrate his urge to hang condemned men and women.

Four years ago, he raised the idea of amending the Constitution to make execution nice and easy, by abolishing criminal appeals to the Privy Council. The main target was the Pratt and Morgan judgment, which made it illegal to hang someone more than five years after being sentenced.

The few dozen people who attended Maharaj’s "national consultation" on the issue supported his proposals. Some went further, calling for the execution of rapists and kidnappers as well; others wanted more strokes for criminals. Teachers and parents were recommended to join the act by flogging children more often and more severely.

The draft bill was sloppily written, however, even in its grammar. It took some time to reach Parliament.

In the interim, Maharaj lambasted the Privy Council, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee. And in 1996, amidst a wave of intense political mobilisation, he produced an upgraded "Hanging Bill" in Parliament.

It sought to erase judicial decisions which stipulated that four days must elapse between reading the warrant and hanging the man (or woman, as Maharaj emphasised).

You could be hanged minutes after your warrant was read. That way, there's no time to contact a lawyer. Or, alternatively, the warrant could be read and a living body could be kept fresh and available to be hanged whenever the need arose: five days or five years later.

That Hanging Bill made it legal to execute men and women anywhere—in Woodford Square, perhaps, if it were considered expedient. No stay would be granted on the basis of "the conditions of confinement". They could be suspended in cages outside the jail, like slavery times.

No challenge was possible on "the manner of carrying out of the sentence". Condemned men and women could be burnt at the stake. Indeed, they could be cremated alive in the St James Crematorium—or on the banks of the Caroni—to avoid burial expenses.

No stays were to be granted on the basis of the time between charge and conviction. Bring back the good old days when a man could spend 15 years in jail before his trial.

No stays were to be granted on the basis of any international treaty, whatever smiles and handshakes and signatures were exchanged with leaders of other countries, whatever promises were made to give prisoners rights to appeal to international bodies.

The bill did not receive the required two-thirds majority, and Prime Minister Basdeo Panday vowed to shift to Plan B.

Now it has resurfaced in an even more draconian form, taking into account more recent judgments and further reducing the grounds on which stays of execution may not be granted.

The Hanging Bill No. 3 has kept all the prohibitions of No. 2, and added to them a few new ones.

Once the death warrant has been signed by the President, "the High Court shall have no jurisdiction". Thus, what ought to have happened but didn't in Russell Sankeralli's case—the High Court should have decided on the admissibility of his new evidence—will now be made illegal.

In case there's another Glen Ashby-type situation, no stay shall be granted because his case is currently before the court.

Following the recent Privy Council judgment which gives condemned men a right of representation before the Mercy Committee, the new Hanging Bill provides that nothing about the Committee's deliberations can be subject to judicial review.

The list of seven grounds which cannot win the condemned man a stay of execution, commutation remission or alteration are not exhaustive. Indeed, a condemned man cannot get a stay "on any ground". At all.

Precisely because of its extreme provisions, it is unlikely that this new Hanging Bill will become law. Even if it does get the required two-thirds majority in Parliament, Section 13.1 of the Constitution allows the court to declare null and void any act shown "not to be reasonably justifiable in a society that has a proper respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual".

And no court will ever endorse an act which purports to give the Government permission to wallow in barbarism.
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PostSubject: Re: RAMESH HANGING BILL 1998   Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:32 pm

Govt moves to change death penalty law
Ria Taitt Political Editor

TIME TO HANG: Patrick Manning

It is time to hang convicted murderers again.

With this in mind, the Government is moving to change the law to ensure that the death penalty is carried out in Trinidad and Tobago.

The last time the death penalty was implemented was in 1999 when ten people, including the infamous Dole Chadee, were hanged.

The legislation is expected to minimise the influence of all bodies which have frustrated the implementation of the death penalty in this country.

"What we are talking about is enshrining in law the conditions under which the death penalty can be carried out and therefore it is not left to the judgment of others. There have been a number of Privy Council decisions that have acted as constraints to the carrying out of the death penalty. And we are trying to streamline our legislation in order to remove this constraint," Manning said.

The Pratt and Morgan judgment by the Privy Council which imposed a five-year time table to hang convicted murderers has frustrated the implementation of the death penalty.

Addressing a Chamber of Industry and Commerce luncheon at the new Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain yesterday, Manning justified the intended measure, saying that the implementation of the death penalty was "a very important intervention in curtailing the level of murders in Trinidad and Tobago".

This statement generated loud applause from Chamber members after which Manning indicated that this decision was taken at a National Security Council meeting held on Monday.

"It is going to call for legislative action, it will require negotiation with the Opposition," he added.

Manning said Government planned to put the Opposition on the spot: "If they support us, they support us and it passes. If they don't wish to support us, it fails and that is the end of that. We are going to the Parliament and we will take our case to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. We are not prepared to get involved in all the arguments into which we were entangled when we were doing the Police legislation."

Stating that it took five years to get the bill passed, Manning said if the Opposition had agreed to the bill five years ago, "we would have been well on our way to curtailing the crime situation in Trinidad and Tobago as we are now experiencing".

Manning also announced that the Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT) would be given direct responsibility for criminal gangs in the country, as soon as a bill giving it a "legal complexion" is passed in the Parliament.

He said the Council decided that the time had come to give SAUTT "which has worked extremely well in the context of its mandate", "a legal complexion".

"The implication of that is that the Special Anti-Crime Unit does not now have to operate under the ambit of the Commissioner of Police and therefore does not have to wait on the Police Service or any other authority to be able to act in the way it ought to," he noted. He said when the law is passed "and we are moving expeditiously to the Parliament to get it done, we will then give the Special Anti-Crime Unit direct responsibility for criminal gangs in the country".
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