The Trinidad and Tobago Government under Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and her People's Partnership government, has decided to amend the Constitution of that republic, so as to allow the resumption of the death penalty by hanging, allowing it to be carried out more speedily, while not contravening agreements with international bodies.
A bill on Friday was brought to the parliament which seeks to amend the constitution with respect to the death penalty, as it does not sit well with such international bodies as the Inter-American Court, which believes the death penalty should not be mandatory.
At present the death penalty is mandated by the Offences Against the Person Act which says, "Every person convicted of murder shall suffer death." The Present government seeks therefore to categorise what situations leading up to a murder, will cause the application of the death penalty.
The Bill incorporates an Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Act 2000, which sets out three categories of murder, previously passed by the House, but which was never proclaimed as law, because it was not passed by a special majority.
The Bill seeks to alter the Constitution and, in accordance with section 54(3) of the Constitution, needs to be passed by a special majority of three-fourths of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate in as much as it would amend section 89 of the Constitution.
The legislation would allow for three categories of murder under the Constitution.
Murder 1 speaks to the (1) murder of any member of the security forces, prison officer, judicial officer or legal officer directly attributable to the nature of his occupation. (2) the murder of any person who has acted as a witness or party in any pending or concluded criminal proceedings or the immediate family member of that person for any reason directly attributable. (3) murder committed by destructive device, explosive (4) murder that is especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity. (5) murder where the deceased was intentionally killed because of his race, religion, nationality or country or origin.
Murder 2 applies if the person has committed more than one murder in T&T
Murder 3 is involuntary homicide committed otherwise than is referred to in section 7 of the Offences Against the Person Act for which a person is liable to be convicted, and includes manslaughter by provocation, negligence and causing death by reckless driving.
In order for new legislation on the death penalty to be protected from being struck down by the Privy Council, it must first be protected by being included in the Constitution, the supreme law of Trinidad and Tobago. The Bill also facilitates hanging.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley says the Opposition will make a decision as to whether it supports legislation for the death penalty after it is reviewed.
Update: 16 Jan 2011
Trinidad although it might seek to categorise murder based on the circumstances of the murder which was committed, and would had therefore satisfied the requirements of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, which believes the death penalty should not be mandatory, might be faced by another obstacle from the United Nations.
In 2007, and again in 2010, The United Nations (UN) formed a resolution, which called on the 192 member states of the UN to vote on a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. The resolution in both instances has receive a majority of votes for those supporting the abolition of the death penalty.
If Trinidad and Tobago were to go contrary to this resolution although it is a non-binding one, might mean that T&T could be be faced with certain sanctions.
Sister isle Barbados, during the 2007 and resolution had been vocal about it, and reported that that country was threatened with the withdrawal of aid over the issue of the resumption of hangings.