Trinidad and Tobago: First execution in ten years threatened

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago not to execute a man who is accused of killing his sister-in-law.

Ronald Tiwarie was sentenced to death on the Caribbean island in 2004 and it is feared that he could be executed within days despite the fact that he has not yet exhausted all his appeals.

According to a ruling by the country’s highest court of appeal – the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London – a prisoner who has spent longer than five years on death row can no longer be executed as any longer on death row would amount to cruel and inhuman treatment. On 4 August Ronald Tiwarie will have been on death row for 5 years.

Last week a Mercy Committee was due to consider Ronald Tiwarie’s case but the hearing was adjourned with no new date given. The Committee would decide either to grant clemency to Mr Tiwarie or to recommend execution.

There remains the possibility that the Committee could reconvene at any point and decide that Ronald Tiwarie be executed, which could then be carried out anytime within 72 hours of the Committee’s decision.

Should this execution go ahead it would be the first on the island in ten years.

Amnesty International UK’s Death Penalty Campaign Manager, Kim Manning-Cooper said:

“No-one has been executed in Trinidad and Tobago in ten years, and so carrying out the death penalty now would be a real step backwards for the Caribbean island.

“We urge the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago not to execute Ronald Tiwarie and put an end to this cruel and abhorrent punishment.”

The English-speaking Caribbean saw its first execution since 2000 in December last year after Charles Elroy Laplace was executed in St Kitts and Nevis. His execution has sparked fears that other English-speaking Caribbean nations will follow suit as pressure grows on the region's governments to be seen to be tackling an increase in violent crime.

In May 2007 the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago said publicly that he wanted hangings resumed, saying that he believed "capital punishment is an essential element in crime fighting".

In June 2009 he blamed delays in carrying out executions on restrictions imposed by Privy Council rulings.

Trinidad and Tobago suffers from high levels of violent crime – there were 545 reported homicides in 2008, a rise of 39% over 2007. However scientific studies have consistently found no convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. The most recent survey on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the UN in 1988 and updated in 1996 and 2002, concluded that "research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment."

Kim Manning-Cooper said:

“The world is turning away from the use of death penalty: 139 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice and only 25 nations carried out executions last year. Trinidad and Tobago would be swimming against the tide if they were to resume this dreadful form of punishment now.”

To take action on this case, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty

Background

1. Ronald Tiwarie was sentenced to death on 4 August 2004 for the murder of his sister-in-law, who had been killed on 8 March 2001.

2. The last executions in Trinidad and Tobago took place in June and July 1999, when 10 men were hanged. The country has previously executed prisoners who had legal avenues of appeal available to them.

3. In December 2008, Trinidad and Tobago, along with the 11 other English-speaking Caribbean nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) voted against the UN General Assembly resolution (63/168) calling for a global moratorium on executions. The English-speaking Caribbean made up almost a quarter of the countries who voted against the moratorium.

4. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The organisation recognises the duty of governments to tackle violent crime but believes that the death penalty is by nature ineffective and arbitrary, and is not an effective deterrent to crime.

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